Jay-Z Tapped Art Star Derrick Adams to Make a Unique NFT Marking the 25th Anniversary of His Debut Album

Sotheby's will auction the NFT online beginning today.

Jay-Z. Portrait by Raven B. Varona.

Just when you thought the mash-up of big money, celebrities, and NFTs could not get any more intense, there’s a new high-profile collaboration in town. To mark the 25th anniversary of hip-hop icon Jay-Z’s first album Reasonable Doubt—which dropped on June 25, 1996—the artist commissioned a work of digital art by sought-after artist Derrick Adams.

It goes on sale at Sotheby’s today; bidding opens at $1,000.

Noting that Reasonable Doubt “changed the game” when it came out 25 years ago, Adams said it “continues to influence so many of us. It tells the story of someone from Brooklyn occupying the urban space—a place that is as central to my own work as it is to his. My portraits aim to capture the sensibility, optimism, and beauty of urban life, and in Jay’s work I’ve found tremendous kinship.”

Derrick Adams, <i>Heir to the Throne</i> (2021). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Derrick Adams, Heir to the Throne (2021). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The single-edition NFT, titled Heir to the Throne, features an animated image that riffs on the album cover’s portrait of the rapper. In it, Adams highlights the symbolic relationship between success and a cigar—animating the glowing red embers and a stream of smoke that rises from its tip into the shape of 25.

Sotheby’s will offer the NFT in a single-lot sale that runs through July 2. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Shawn Carter Foundation, founded in 2003 by Jay-Z and his mother to help fund college education for those who cannot afford it. 

Jay-Z is a longtime collector and supporter of Adams’s work. (Adams’s gallerist, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, has also advised Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and Adams’s work appeared in the singer’s “Black Is King” video.) With the current NFT project, Adams said, “we jointly embrace the opportunity to further the conversation about how artists of different mediums contribute to a more inclusive society.”

Derrick Adams. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Derrick Adams. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Brooklyn-based Adams’s work has become a favorite of institutions and private collectors alike. His series “Style Variations,” recently shown at Salon 94’s new headquarters on the Upper East Side, was inspired by mannequins he encountered on a daily basis in wig stores in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he lives. The works swiftly sold out. 

Heir to the Throne is also on view in Sotheby’s virtual space in the Voltaire Art District of Decentraland. The auction house will accept either Ether or Bitcoin cryptocurrency, as well as old-fashioned money, as payment for the work. 

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