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Projects by digital artists Pak and Mad Dog Jones are up for grabs in the auction houses' inaugural NFT sales this month.

Sotheby’s and Phillips Announce High Concept NFT Auctions

Pak, Fungible Open Edition, Single Cube (2021). NFT digital animation (still). Courtesy the artist and Sotheby's.

Sotheby's announced details of its first ever non-fungible token (NFT) sale on Tuesday. The auction house partnered with anonymous artist Pak on a collection of works called The Fungible, which will be available to purchase on NFT platform Nifty Gateway from 12 to 14 April.

The first artist to earn over US $1 million from NFT sales, Pak is known for minimalist animations of geometric forms. The works are in stark contrast to the digital grotesques created by Beeple, whose Everydays – The First 5,000 Days NFT (2007–2021) sold for $69.3 million at Christie's New York on 11 March.

There are several facets to Pak's project for Sotheby's. The only one announced so far, The Fungible Open Editions, invites collectors to purchase any number of digital illustrations of cubes spinning on a black background from 1pm ET on Tuesday, 12 April. A single cube costs $500, but they can also be bought in editions of 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and, for anyone who has half a million dollars to spare, 1,000.

The cubes are identical, and hence 'fungible', the same way any dollar bill is worth the same as another. The larger denominations of cubes are reminiscent of bills of different denominations.

'I see this collection as the first digitally native mindset of works that's presented to the traditional art world through a global auction house,' said Pak. 'With this kind of a scale, I expect it to play a major cultural role in telling the narrative of the digital world to the traditional world in terms of the medium definition and value creation. People may be able to right click save as a "jpeg" but how would they save as a digital performance?'

Pak is not the only artist drawing attention to the conundrum of creating lasting value for easily replicable digital art. On Friday, rival auction house Phillips announced its inaugural collaboration with an artist making NFTs. They will auction off REPLICATOR (2021) by Ontario-based artist Mad Dog Jones from 12-23 April.

REPLICATOR is a smart contract that begins with a digital illustration of a fax machine in Mad Dog Jones' familiar style—rainbow-hued vapourwave views of urban Japan. The fax machine will self-replicate across seven generations, creating somewhere from 75 to 300 copies over about one year, depending on the number of probabilistically generated 'jams' that occur. Unlike Pak's open edition, just one bidder will win the rights to REPLICATOR, including each subsequent copy of the fax machine created over its reproductive period.

'REPLICATOR is the story of a machine through time,' said Mad Dog Jones, aka Michah Dowbak. 'It is a reflection on forms of past groundbreaking innovation and serves as a metaphor for modern technology's continuum.'

Not knowing how many fax machine images REPLICATOR will produce or how many cubes will be minted in Pak's The Fungible Open Edition creates uncertainty about the value of the works. They're apt metaphors for the whole NFT market. —[O]

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