Sotheby’s has dipped its toe into the burgeoning NFT scene a few times this year, with auctions ranging from celebrated digital artist Pak to the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club avatar collection. But now, the storied auction house is diving into the tokenized digital collectibles scene full time with today’s launch of the Sotheby’s Metaverse marketplace.
Sotheby's Metaverse is a curated marketplace that will auction NFTs for fiat currency, along with Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin (BTC), and the USDC stablecoin. It will support NFTs minted on Ethereum, the leading platform for NFTs, as well as blockchain networks that are compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine—potentially including layer-2 scaling solution Polygon, as well as Binance Smart Chain.
The marketplace is powered by Mojito, a new NFT tech and commerce suite developed by Serotonin, a Web3 venture studio and marketing firm. The company has been working with Sotheby’s since its initial Pak auction in April, a Serotonin representative told Decrypt.
“With Sotheby’s Metaverse, we will create a new industry ecosystem that serves as a destination for the most sophisticated digital art sales and auctions, positioning Sotheby’s at the center of some of the most important NFT industry activity,” Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s co-head of digital art sales, told Decrypt.
An NFT acts like a receipt to a rare digital item, as verifiable via a blockchain. It can represent all sorts of things, such as digital artwork, video files, profile pictures, interactive video game items, and more. The NFT market took off in early 2021 and recently soared to new heights, including $10.67 billion worth of total trading volume in Q3 alone.
Meanwhile, the “metaverse” is a term used to describe shared online spaces in which users work, play, and interact. It’s a term used often in the crypto space, particularly as many decentralized projects lay the groundwork and infrastructure for future shared digital worlds. NFT collectibles are expected to be a big part of the metaverse, providing the basis for 3D avatars, for example, as well as unique digital fashion.
#NativelyDigital is back!
Sotheby’s is proud to welcome our second dedicated NFT sale - 'Natively Digital 1.2: The Collectors.' pic.twitter.com/izl1BPZJuc
— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) October 7, 2021
The marketplace will first play host to Natively Digital 1.2: The Collectors, an auction featuring 53 NFT collectibles currently owned by a total of 19 celebrities or notable collectors in the space. Natively Digital 1.2 is the sequel to an earlier Sotheby’s NFT auction and opens today for viewing, with bidding set to run from October 18-26.
Pieces in the auction include a CryptoPunks and Bored Ape avatars, compositions from the Art Blocks generative artwork collection, and a Rare Pepe NFT originally minted on the Bitcoin-based Counterparty protocol in 2016.
Noted NFT collectors Pranksy, 888, and WhaleShark are among those providing pieces for the auction, along with Paris Hilton and musician Steve Aoki. A pair of NFT-centric DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations—PleasrDAO and Fingerprints DAO—have also consigned NFTs for the auction.
Sotheby’s enters a growing NFT space that is filled with rival marketplaces, including some with a years-long head start. Leading marketplace OpenSea has racked up more than $3 billion of trading volume in each of the last two months, per data from Dune Analytics, while curated artwork platforms like SuperRare and Nifty Gateway are also popular with collectors.
Just this week, a pair of major cryptocurrency exchanges entered the space, with FTX US launching its NFT marketplace and Coinbase revealing plans to launch one in the near future. And late last month, investor and NFT entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk partnered with gallerist Vito Schnabel to launch Art Official, an NFT platform focused on fine art.
The Sotheby’s name carries weight in the art world, however, with a 277-year history of auctioning notable work. That reputation could help make the difference as Sotheby’s puts a permanent foot into the rising digital art space.