The multimillion-dollar question facing the art market is whether the crypto collectors buying up NFTs will ever convert to IRL art—and now, at least one major player has done just that.
Justin Sun, the cryptocurrency investor who was the underbidder for the Beeple NFT that Christie’s recently sold for $69.3 million, has just snatched up two blue-chip works at Christie’s 20th-century, Surrealist, and contemporary art sale held between Hong Kong and London on March 23.
After being informed that no similar NFTs were forthcoming at auction, Sun purchased Pablo Picasso’s 16-by-16-inch painting of Marie-Therese Walter, Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérese) (1932), for £14.6 million ($20 million). He then bought Andy Warhol’s Three Self Portraits (1986), a triptych of “fright wig” portraits for £1.4 million ($2 million). Bloomberg first reported the news this morning.
Christie’s said that Sun, who recently paid a reported $6.6 million for a Beeple work that was previously sold in October for $66,000, did not pay for the Picasso and the Warhol works with cryptocurrency.
Christie’s also confirmed that Sun purchased the works for his recently announced “JUST NFT Fund,” which aims to register major works of art as NFTs on the blockchain, but did not elaborate on his plans for the paintings.
It remains to be seen whether Sun is planning to “tokenize” these work by minting related NFTs, or if he’ll treat them as investment properties, perhaps by offering fractionalized ownership shares.
Sun, who did not respond to a request for comment, teased the possibilities in tweets this morning. “I am thrilled to announce that #JUST #NFT Fund successfully purchased” the Picasso and the Warhol works. The auction represents “a very significant milestone,” he added, “in entry into the top fine art industry,” adding: “Stay Tuned.”
In a recent open letter that Sun published on the website of his Tron Foundation, he noted that the total value of NFTs traded last year had tripled to $250 million, while total sales of NFTs in the past month alone have exceeded $220 million. “And that’s where JUST NFT can come into play,” he wrote.
Sun wants the fund to be the go-to registry for top-flight artworks “as NFTs on blockchain. JUST NFT fund was born to build a bridge between top-notch artists and blockchain, and to support the growth of native crypto NFT artists.”
Sun said the fund will only accept works valued at over $1 million, and will operate with a median value of $10 million. “We believe the art space is also subject to the 80–20 rule, or the Pareto Principle,” he wrote, “where only the value of the artists sitting at the tippy-top of the pyramid can stand the test of time.”
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