Not to Be Left Out, Sotheby’s Is Wading Into the NFT Fray With an Auction by the Anonymous Digital Artist Pak

Sotheby's says Pak is "wizard." Seriously!

Pak, Metanoia, no date. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Pak, Metanoia, no date. Courtesy Sotheby's.

It had to happen eventually.

Sotheby’s has teased a coming NFT collaboration with anonymous digital artist-designer Pak.

With no hype whatsoever, Sotheby’s proclaims Pak, who uses “they” pronouns, to be “an omniscient designer/developer/wizard” who is also the creator of Archillect, which is billed as “an AI created to discover and share stimulating visual content.”

Stimulating!

The sale will include open editions and unique works. More information is to come, says the house.

Sotheby’s has ventured outside the traditional art world into a field that has seen a meteoric rise in market and media attention in recent weeks. To name only the biggest headline-grabber, Christie’s sold an artwork by artist Beeple for $69 million, making him, after David Hockney and Jeff Koons, the third most expensive living artist.

“This brings on some remarks about a bubble, speculation, and an unhealthy marketplace,” acknowledged Max Moore, Sotheby’s head of contemporary afternoon sales, in an interview.

“But digital art is not a new concept. It’s intersected with art before, in artists like Nam June Paik and Bill Viola. The real difference here is, it’s linked to the value of cryptocurrency and some of the blockchain capability that artists have been using to push the boundaries of the framework it can provide for the artist as a creator.”

Pak, <i>Cards of Entropy</i>, no date. Courtesy Sotheby's.

Pak, Cards of Entropy, no date. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

“An artist such as Pak is exploring these from a creative, curatorial, concept-driven approach,” he said. “The visual quality is quite similar to a Conceptual, Minimal artist, but Pak is pushing the boundaries of what digital art is and can become, and constantly surprising collectors and creators.”

Moore sees plenty of market upside, based on a flood of interest in this new artistic medium from the house’s clients. He also notes the recent sale on Thursday, for 444 Ethereum (which Moore calculates at $880,000), of another Pak work. The sale took place on the Foundation platform—a smaller marketplace than a Sotheby’s branded sale, he pointed out, so prices could soar much higher at the auction house.

In an email to Artnet News, Michael Connor, artistic director at Rhizome, weighed in on Pak’s place in the field.

“Pak is a leading exemplar of the GPU-intensive finish fetish aesthetics that have risen to the top of the NFT art scene,” Connor said. “Their work in particular, with its coldness and mathematical precision, resonates with a cryptographic imaginary in which the NFT market is one component of a burgeoning metaverse.

“Implicitly, traditional institutional stewardship and aesthetic standards no longer apply in this new world,” Connor said. “On my part, I find this burgeoning movement quite interesting, but I am also extremely aware of how a ‘new world’ rhetoric around the blockchain is extremely useful as a way of concealing a replication or exacerbation of existing societal issues, even as it may prompt new and progressive thinking about social and economic life.”

Can you hear Sotheby’s in the background, saying yadda yadda yadda?


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