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Sotheby’s hits NFT jackpot, thanks to millennials

The auction house enjoyed a record year in 2021, helped by its foray into nonfungible tokens

A Sotheby's art handler with 'The Four Seasons' by Sebastiaan Vrancx, valued at £600,000 to £800,000, during a photo call at Sotheby's in London. (AP)

Sotheby’s enjoyed a record year in 2021, helped by its foray into nonfungible tokens.

The almost 300-year-old auction house reported $100 million in sales off its new NFT category, with first-time bidders flocking to its virtual Decentraland gallery and seeking out Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunk collectibles, according to a recent year-in-review report.

Also read: Is NFT the disruptor that digital art needs?

The launch of Sotheby’s Metaverse -- a web3-enabled NFT marketplace -- helped draw a wider audience this year with 78% of NFT bidders at auction being new to Sotheby’s and more than half under 40 years of age, its report showed. The sales helped contribute to the company’s $7.3 billion in consolidated sales.

Sotheby’s stepped into the NFT ring in April with its first sale done in collaboration with digital creator Pak, where a three-day sale of a collection known as “The Fungible” generated $16.8 million.

Among its other notable sales, a bundle of NFTs Bored Ape Yacht Club -- one of the most popular NFT collections -- fetched $24.4 million and set a record for the biggest single lot sold online at the auction house. Banksy’s “Love is in the Bin” also broke a record after tripling its high estimate while Kanye West’s 2008 “Grammy worn” Nike Air Yeezy sample became the most value sneakers sold. 

According to an AFP report, sales were boosted by Asian buyers, new collectors, and the Macklowe collection, the world's most expensive to hit the market. Asian collectors accounted for 46 percent of bids and purchases of lots over $5 million. Sotheby's said the purchase of Alberto Giacometti's "Le Nez" by cryptocurrency entrepreneur Justin Sun for $78.4 million was symbolic of "an influx of younger, tech-savvy collectors", the report said.

Also read: Sotheby's is getting more serious about NFT and luxury

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