An NFT Sale at Christie’s Brought in $1.6 Million, Giving Digital Art Collectors Some Hope in the Wake of the Crypto Crash

All 27 lots in the event sold, but it was far from the heady NFT days of 2021.

Sam Spratt, VII. Wormfood (2022). Courtesy of Christie's.

A sale of NFTs by Beeple, Mad Dog Jones, and other artists brought in $1.6 million at Christie’s last night, just surpassing the auction house’s expectations. 

For those looking to the event as a bellwether for the NFT market in the wake of the recent cryptocurrency crash, the sale brought reason for tempered optimism—though the results ultimately paled in comparison to those seen during the heady days of the 2021 digital art gold rush.  

The 27-lot online sale, titled “Cartography of the Mind,” was a benefit for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit that promotes mental health research with MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and other controlled substances. Alternative-assets investor Ryan Zurrer curated the event’s appropriately trippy offerings, all of which were estimated to sell for less than $250,000, with most priced in the low five-figure range. 

Just two pieces ended up eclipsing that quarter-million mark, both of which were minted this month and sold for exactly $252,000: a Planet of the Apes-esque illustration of a human-sized primate by artist Sam Spratt, which cruised past its pre-sale estimate of $80,000-$120,000 after 15 bids; and a dystopic Beeple “Everydays” image of man walking among giant mushrooms, which edged its own estimate of $150,000-$250,000 with 10 bids. 

If you’re really trying to mine market meaning from the sale, these two artworks offer up ready-made metaphors: Spratt’s laconic ape a symbol of defeat, Beeple’s wondrous landscape a message of hope. The latter contains a telling caption: “It’s been a long strange trip so far, but the journey has just begun.”

Beeple, PILGRIMAGE (2022). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Other highlights from the sale include a pixelated picture of an ouroboros by ELFJTRUL OF FORGOTTEN RUNES, which went for $138,600, more than tripling its pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000); and two abstract artworks by Refik Anadol and IX Shells, each of which sold for exactly $100,800 against $80,000-$120,000 estimates.

In the end, each of the 27 lots sold, though several of them, including pieces by Brendan Dawes, Jake Fried, and Tom Sachs, did so with only one bid.

“We put this sale together both as a celebration of the digital art space and as a philanthropic endeavor, and given that we sold 100 percent of the works and achieved over the high estimate, I would classify it as a huge success,” said Nicole Sales, Christie’s business director of digital art, in an email to Artnet News.

Including “Cartography of the Mind,” Christie’s has sold $4.6 million in NFTs art so far this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last year, the auction house brought in nearly $150 million.

When asked about the sale’s results in relation to the astronomical figures brought in by NFT auctions in 2021, Sales said that “we’re currently experiencing a maturation of the NFT art market.”

“This sale was about art for art’s sake as well as charitable giving and the results were fantastic,” she added. “The market for quality digital artworks remains strong.”

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