Christie’s Is Selling Mind-Bending NFTs by Artists Mad Dog Jones, Nadya Tolokonnikova, and More to Benefit Psychedelic Research

The sale hopes to raise $600,000 for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Killer Acid, Watching the World Go By (2023). Photo courtesy Christie's.

If you take the scale of a mega pharmaceutical expo, infuse it with Burning Man optimism, and sprinkle some celebrity magic on top, you arrive at something approaching Psychedelic Science, the world’s largest ever psychedelics conference that took over downtown Denver for a week in June.

Quarterback Aaron Rogers is speaking, the Flaming Lips are playing a show, and on the side Christie’s is staging an exhibition of the hallucinogenic reflections of more than 30 artists. It’s an IRL presentation of “Cartography of the Soul,” a sale running through June 27 on Christie’s 3.0, the auction house’s platform for on-chain art.

There’s a hazy line to be drawn from the psychedelia of the 1960s through to the decentralization maxim of today’s blockchain revolution. Both ends share a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo and it was, to some degree, the countercultural spirit of California’s hippie movement that fed the Silicon Valley boom. Today, the digital world these dreamers-turned-tech-moguls created is one that Web3 is both building off and rejecting.

Mad Dog Jones

Mad Dog Jones, A Gust of Wind (2023). Photo courtesy Christie’s.

Some of the works curated by Christie’s and 10F1, an NFT collector’s club, wink at this history. Sasha Stiles’s Analog Binary Code: (non)fungible offers zeros and ones in capsules of differently colored mushrooms (maitake and turkey tail, to be precise) that comprise a poem. Harry Pack’s fantastical Biomorphic Blues seems to conjure the back-to-nature spirit of the ’60s with something owed in curl and color to the illustrations of Heinz Edelmann of Yellow Submarine fame. And The Fall by Klara Vollstaedt is a personal video exploration of the push and pull of creating in today’s digital reality.

More powerful, 1OF1’s Lukas Amacher argued, is thinking about the show holistically rather than its composite parts.

“True to mycelia’s decentralized structure, rather than choosing works from artists, this show was asking them to contribute to a network of ideas,” he said. “Mycelia and plant networks have the same governance properties as Web3. The whole is about the network of nodes rather than the individual nodes.”

DeeKay

DeeKay, Self-Discovery (2023). Photo courtesy Christie’s.

For the second year running, the sale will benefit the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. This time, Christie’s hopes to raise north of $600,000 for research into psychedelic therapies and judging by the roster of artists who have donated work, it may well surpass that number.

The auction is most confident on the prospects of DeeKay’s Self-Discovery (staring bid $77,000), which adopts the flat aesthetics of platform video games, and plays the tumbles, jumps, and slides of hapless animated characters in a dizzying loop.

Other names include technologist duo Holly Herndon and Mathew Drygate who offer Moat, an organized pile of indecipherable metal objects that combine monstrously; and Mad Dog Jones, whose fuchsia-tinged future cityscapes have sold for millions, delivers A Gust of Wind which depicts an office worker meditating in a dilapidated alleyway. Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot gives This Art Rejects Fear in which she faces her treatment in Russia’s justice system through a physical work (attached to an NFT) that recalls the needlework forced upon while in a penal colony.

“This sale offers buyers a unique opportunity,” Nicole Sales Giles of Christie’s digital art department said in a statement, “to collect digital artworks at an array of price points and aesthetics while supporting a wonderful organization.”

 

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