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The makers of NFTs 'need to keep innovating', the artist told Ocula Magazine.

Mad Dog Jones, REPLICATOR (2021). Non-Fungible Token (ERC-721) PNG: 16.5 MB, 4,800x6,000px MP4: 64.2 MB, 4,800x6,000px, HD, 00:50, stereo. Cropped still. Courtesy the artist and Phillips.

Mad Dog Jones' REPLICATOR (2021) sold at auction for US $4.1 million on Friday 23 April, a record for a living Canadian artist. Organised by Phillips, the auction closed at noon EDT.

REPLICATOR was the biggest NFT auction since Pak's 'The Fungible' collection, which brought in $16.8 million at Sotheby's earlier this month. Beeple's Everydays – The First 5,000 Days NFT (2007–2021) went for $69 million at Christie's in March, and another of his works was purchased for $6 million in a charity auction for The Open Earth Foundation.

Mad Dog Jones, also known as Michah Dowbak, said auctions had a meaningful role to play in the rise of NFT art.

'I think that there's a lot of misunderstanding and confusion floating around the traditional art collecting community about what NFTs are exactly and how people should go about acquiring these works and supporting these artists,' he said. 'By having a traditional auction house sell the artworks it really opens up the door to a much larger community that is not fully immersed in the crypto space.'

'The idea of NFTs is so new and the themes around REPLICATOR are reflecting on past innovation,' Jones said. 'It felt right to house this new artwork in an institution so firmly grounded in the past.'

Mad Dog Jones, also known as Michah Dowbak. Courtesy Mad Dog Jones and Phillips.

Phillips, which was founded in 1796, said in order to sell an NFT it had to be an artist and a concept they believed in.

'What I'm most excited about is the relationship between medium and form in REPLICATOR,' said Rebekah Bowling, Senior Specialist of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Phillips. 'The concept couldn't be realized if it weren't an NFT. It's completely dependent on this technology to do what it's been designed to do.'

The way REPLICATOR reflects on past innovation is by taking another invention as its subject matter. The work is a smart contract that begins with a digital illustration of a fax machine. This illustration will self-replicate for seven generations, creating an estimated 75 to 300 copies over about one year, depending on the number of probabilistically generated 'jams' that occur.

Invented in 1843, sales of stand-alone fax machines peaked in 1997, and the technology is now largely obsolete. Whether NFTs are particular to this moment in time—a carbon-costly fad for owning digital assets born from the crypto boom—or whether they'll be with us for decades to come remains to be seen.

Rebekah Bowling on offering Mad Dog Jones' REPLICATOR (2021) as the first NFT in Phillips' history. Courtesy the artist and Phillips.

'NFTs are exciting, ground-breaking pieces of technology that really challenge what we know and take for granted in the art world,' Jones said. 'In order to have real staying power, however, the artists making them will need to keep innovating in new and interesting ways to keep people engaged.'

'The intriguing part is no one truly knows the future of NFTs,' he continued. 'Everyone is looking for an answer,' he said. 'Instead of trying to make up an answer, I would rather offer a reflection on the past and see where that takes the viewer.'

'Mad Dog Jones is a leader and an innovator in the field of crypto art his multi-generational NFT is unlike anything that has been offered before,' Bowling said. 'He's paving the way for a new generation of artists to explore the creative possibilities of this medium.'

Asked if Phillips was planning future collaborations with NFT artists, Bowling said, 'We are researching the space closely and exploring our options for becoming more involved in the near future.'

A spokesperson for Phillips said they had no comment on whether they would sell secondary market NFTs in future as they are currently focused on working with digital artists directly. —[O]

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