Christie’s debuts new on-chain NFT marketplace and shares upcoming investments in the Web3 space

British auction house Christie’s has just launched a blockchain marketplace fully dedicated to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), demonstrating leadership in the crypto art market. Dubbed ‘Christie’s 3.0’, the fully on-chain platform sells a curation of NFT-based artwork as well as other categories in design, luxury, music, science, and technology—such as the first Wikipedia edit. The platform was created in collaboration with Manifold, a start-up focusing on smart contracts, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, and the Spatial metaverse, powering their virtual gallery. Contrary to previous NFT auctions using traditional auction tools and Web2 infrastructure, Christie’s 3.0 now supports a fully on-chain transaction on the Ethereum network, from start to finish.

Christie’s foray into Web3 follows after the launch of the Christie’s Fund—a venture capital investment in Web3 and blockchain innovations in the support of art-related financial products and solutions. Global Head of Christie’s Ventures Devang Thakkar reveals to Tatler, “We are looking at startups that make it easier for clients to onboard and adopt Web3 tools, and make it seamless to consume art via means of technology.”

Christie’s has since placed its first investment in Vancouver-based LayerZero Labs, a Web3 company that builds decentralised applications (dApps) making assets compatible across multiple blockchains. The firm plans to expand its portfolio of investments from mixed-reality experiences to holograms.

Shaking Up the Art World

Known as the luxury auction house to have sold the most expensive NFT artwork in history so far, Christie’s continues to make the headlines for other high-ticket NFT auction sales including Cryptopunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and World of Woman, to name a few. “We activated the NFT space with the historic sale of Beeple’s 'Everydays: the First 5000 Days' in March 2021, realising USD$69 million. Since then we’ve stayed committed and continue to be the venue for collectors to discover the best NFTs and digital artworks of this emerging category,” comments Nicole Sales Giles, Christie's Director of Digital Art Sales. Today, the global trading volume of NFTs has surged over US$54 billion this year and the auction house exceeded US$100 million in NFT sales in 2021.

In this new venture, Christie’s 3.0 will see nine new NFTs from 18-year-old internationally awarded artist Diana Sinclair. Her multimedia artworks are created with artificial intelligence and will be minted at a range of ETH4 to ETH8 (around US$5,500 to US$11,000 at the time of writing). Buyers are to connect their crypto wallet to enter the bidding process with Ether. Unlike others, Christie’s 3.0 is not an open marketplace—meaning sellers cannot directly list NFTs for sale—but instead is a highly curated platform, with works and auctions selected very specifically by Christie’s experts. Auctions will be held online at Christie’s 3.0 at select times throughout the calendar year.

 

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Diane Sinclair I want to nurture the earth
Above Diane Sinclair, "I want to nurture the earth"

The auction house is no stranger to technology, having first raised the topic of blockchain applications in the art market since its annual Art+Tech Summit in 2018. But while many of the creatives show disdain towards NFTs, these digital tokens have proven to be more than just pixels as their value lies in its underlying technology. The purchase of digital artwork isn’t just the graphics itself, but essentially owning the chain of code on the blockchain that represents the digital asset. Under Christie’s 3.0, all transactions and post-sale processing will be automated, with tools provided for compliance and tax purposes. Implementing blockchain in auctions helps eradicate fraudulent activities and also introduces traceable authenticity and verification into the art of bidding and purchasing. Having the record can help certify ownership that is linked to the digital artwork—akin to an artist’s signature and print number associated with traditional pieces. “We aim to recognize and bring young emerging artists to an international and digitally savvy market, building an engaged community around their brands through digital ownership,” explains Sales Giles.

 

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Going Mainstream

The launch of an NFT marketplace under a legacy auction house asserts the importance and future of Web3 in the art space. In its early stages, Christie’s has helped educate traditional buyers with setting up crypto wallets as an introduction to NFTs. The auction house has also been encouraging crypto payments as it began accepting Ether as a payment option. “There is an exciting opportunity for onboarding and educating these clients into our broader business while also keeping up with the pace of technological innovation to keep bringing new offerings for this client base,” says Thakker.

Millennials are the biggest collectors of digital art, and this new cohort has been introduced into the traditional space of auction houses, breaking the barrier of entry and opening up discovery in appreciating other works of art and collectibles. In the first half of the year, almost 80 per cent of NFT buyers were new to Christie’s, and a quarter of them were made up of millennials.

Thakker adds, “Web3 brings a new class of collectors to our market. Early tech adopters and tech enthusiasts tend to be younger and a more globally diverse group that falls outside of our traditional verticals.” Christie’s has been revamping its 256-year-old image and attracting younger collectors with more contemporary collections, from Supreme skateboards to Hermès Birkins; additionally, there is Christie’s 100, a new online sale of accessibly priced postwar and contemporary art.

While the art world is still divided by the appreciation of digital art, legacy auction houses cannot neglect this new phenomenon as the crypto world has spawned a new generation of wealthy young collectors, who are in turn replacing old money buyers. NFTs remains an important gateway for new and younger buyers into the historical field, as Sales Giles asserts “We hope that by launching Christie’s 3.0, we are signaling to collectors that Digital Art deserves a place in every serious contemporary art collection.”

 

 

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