The timing isn’t coincidental: Bitcoin has doubled in value this year, surging to a record high above $62,000, as cryptocurrencies have become more widely embraced by mainstream investors. For those adverse to the volatility and risk in the crypto sector, Coinbase says its direct listing will let investors buy into cryptocurrencies without having to own any individual digital currencies.
The market for the unique digital collectibles remains volatile, but Sotheby’s has given the NFT space legitimacy.
First Move’s Julia Chatterley spoke to CEO Alexi Robichaux about Harry’s role at BetterUp and the company’s mission.
People are watching this and going, “What on earth?” Can you please explain why Sotheby’s is embracing this market?
Stewart: NFTs really burst on to the mainstream consciousness over the last few months and i think there’s a lot of people who are from outside the digital and crypto worlds who are struggling to understand what this all means. But we moved into it because we believe that there are long-term implications and opportunity. And one of the most exciting things is that we are accessing an entirely new audience and group of artists as well. That was very much on display in our sale over the last three days.
You went to an NFT gateway and there were technical challenges. Why did you do that?
Stewart: We decided to partner with nifty because they are really a leader in this emerging space. They have all the tools to mint the wallet and payment features and, you know, they’re well established. So it was a natural partnership from our standpoint. I think because of the scale of interest, i mean, this was ground breaking in lots of ways for them as well as for us. We did see some challenges but really i think overall it was an enormous success and kind of a break through in many ways.
Who’s buying the art? You said you’re opening up a new market. Who’s buying?
Stewart: There’s definitely a strong connection with crypto and the crypto community, but I would tell you across our three days of sales with these hubs we had over 3,000 participants in the sale. Of course, when you talk about the one that sold for the higher values, ultimately like most – you get down to a couple of determined bidders who are trying to win it. That was the case here as well.
Where do you think it goes?
Stewart: Our business is almost entirely in the physical art community and that will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. But i will say that we believe that new audience and community – it’s a large community. They’re passionate. They’re engaged. That’s been really interesting to see, to see spring up. I mean, there are analogies you can rise to the rise of street art in ’70s and ‘80s and digital art in 2021 may be what street art was in 1970s.
How big might this market get? Fast forward five years: Where is the art market?
Stewart: I think it’s very, very early and the market clearly is volatile. It’s linked to the value of crypto. If you tell me where you think the value of crypto is going, then maybe i can give you a more informed view on that because for the time being they are linked. But what I think is really more interesting and pervasive and powerful and here to stay is the idea of the blockchain ownership and authentication. This potentially has implications for physical art as well as digital art and i definitely think that irrespective of the ups and downs of the primary and secondary markets in a monetary sense that this category will continue to grow and develop over the years ahead.