A lot of appealing 104 CryptoPunks will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on February 23rd in an estimated “landmark” sale estimated between $20 million and $30 million. This sale did not achieve that astronomical price tag: the lot was withdrawn before the sale took place. On Twitter, the owner wrote: “nvm, decided to hodl”. Despite this, they posted a Drake meme, suggesting that the withdrawal was a deliberate “rug-pull”-crypto slang meaning to give up on investment once it has been raised. Many crypto skeptics believed this reinforced their concerns. Who considered NFTs to be a dubious investment vehicle akin to a cruel joke on what the world needs today from art, capital, and technology.
As yet, it is not clear whether this will dampen the enthusiasm of auction houses like Sotheby’s or whether it signals a turning point in the NFT market. CryptoPunk #5822, decorated with a royal-blue bandana. Which was previously reportedly sold in February for 8,000 ETH, at the time, approximately $23.7 million.
Among the most prominent and lucrative NFTs offered today are CryptoPunks, the work of a duo of creative technologists known as Larva Labs; additionally, CryptoPunks are prime appealing examples of the “profile pic” (or “PFP”) NFT trend that is driving the market and the medium.
So, what makes them so appealing?
In Melanie McClain’s eyes, it’s all about the community. She uses Bored Ape as her avatar (with 3-D glasses and a Breton stripes T-shirt). Which gives her access to BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) Discord and is appealing for her. That indicates that she is an early adopter. “The assumption is not that I am a Black woman,” she chuckles. It is that people address me online as “bro”. A typical feature of the NFT community is that avatars are often ambiguous about their owners. The Twitter platform was recently updated so that NFT holders could post PFPs in a distinct hexagon. Lending legitimacy to the idea that, in the future, PFPs may be one way to express personal identity online. Wearing a valuable NFT PFP is like wearing a costume at a masked ball-you’re sure to attract attention while retaining your anonymity.
The world in which we live is very different. Many NFT projects also allow their owners to create merchandise using their artwork, effectively allowing them to become a brand. These images grant them access to a global, non-secret society that is distributed physically across the globe. As McClain wore a sweatshirt with a piece of her artwork at Art Basel, other collectors were drawn to her. It allows me to form connections with people that I never would have met otherwise, she said.
To demonstrate this point, she was interrupted when a passerby asked if he could help my art collective on an NFT project. As Larry returned to the call, he added, “I have my Apes on the windows of my truck.” This kind of interaction is nothing new for him.
Larry’s NFT craze
OpenSea’s list of Larry’s collection shows that he’s in the top 1% of collectors. And his wallet contains many lesser-known projects as well as Apes (Bored and Mutant). The NFT market was Larry’s first step into the world of alternative art in February 2021, after he admitted to rejecting traditional forms of art. Developing a strong art collection can be difficult for someone who has limited social capital or financial resources, he noted. From experience, I know that it can be snobby and make collectors feel inferior.
According to NFT evangelists, their offerings are more open and level. Larry explained that if you can get a hold of a promising project early, you stand a chance of buying a piece of art for a reasonable price. Use that work to create derivative pieces and you have the beginning of an impressive collection. Your credentials don’t need to be validated by a gallerist. In fact, all the credentials that matter are publicly available. In response to the backlash against NFTs, Larry is baffled. “It’s quite comical, actually,” he said. Since acquiring the works he owns, he’s met a lot of people. In his view, it’s a form of art that anyone can join.