It’s been a little over a year since Beeple’s non-fungible token (NFT) work “Everydays: The first 5000 days” (2021) sold for a whopping $69.3 million. Since then, the craze for art NFTs seemed unabated, but according to a survey of 870 gallery owners, very few jumped on the bandwagon – while those who made relatively little money from them.
According to the 2022 Artsy Gallery Insights report from online sales platform Artsy, only 11 percent of galleries sold NFTs in 2021, while 67 percent say their customers hadn’t even asked for them. Of those who did sell NFTs, half say their total sales value was $5,000 or less, with 20 percent making between $5,000 and $14,999. Only 5 percent made more than $250,000 in selling NFTs in 2021.
There remains some enthusiasm for NFTs, with the report finding that a quarter of respondents plan to offer them this year. Earlier this month, Artsy itself offered NFTs of 31 female and non-binary artists, in part to benefit the nonprofit Girls Who Code. But Saskia Draxler, co-founder of the Nagel Draxler Gallery and an early NFT user, is “determined that there would be no future without clean blockchain technology,” according to a story on Artsy, and rejects the energy-intensive technology on which some blockchains run .
As prices rise at the top end of the art market, companies that fractionate art into more buyable pieces are also on the rise. This week marks the launch of Mintus, an investment platform registered with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, offering shares in a company that owns Andy Warhol’s “Self-Portrait” (1966), initially priced at £3.8 million, and George Condo’s “The Outcast” (2018), for £2.1 million. Qualified investors must spend a minimum of £2,500, while the sellers of any work – both private individuals – have an option to hold a minority share.
Behind the company is Tamer Ozmen, formerly a senior executive at Microsoft, who will become Mintus’ chief executive in its first venture into the art world. Brett Gorvy, managing partner at LGDR Gallery, is chief curator and member of the advisory board of Mintus, while Tad Smith, formerly CEO of Sotheby’s, also serves on the board. “Not many people can buy a £2m piece or know where to invest [in the art market]Ozmen says.
He and Gorvy recognize that such companies were unsuccessful before the pandemic, but Gorvy says, “The world has changed. The idea suits the younger generation, and collectors in Asia, who are very handy with online bidding, for example.” He sees Mintus as an addition to his gallery work, he says.
Mintus plans to offer more than £150 million worth of works this year, priced at least £2 million each and with a holding period of between two and seven years, Ozmen says. His company will charge a 20 percent performance fee when a work is sold. Both Warhol and Condo values have already been independently revised upwards, he says.
Most of the art world has left this week in Venice for the 59th Biennale, but events outside the arts festival are not completely forgotten. On April 21, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco will host a quickly assembled fundraising event to benefit Ukrainian humanitarian and cultural charities, including Cecilia Alemani, curator of this year’s Biennale, collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and dealers Larry Gagosian and Marc Glimcher.
An accompanying auction includes work by Richard Prince – his “Untitled” (2021) is valued at between €180,000 and €240,000 – and Maria Prymachenko (1909-97), a self-taught Ukrainian artist whose works were destroyed in a Russian attack and whose foundation is one of the beneficiaries of the fundraiser. Bids can be accepted online until April 24.
Also in Venice, the Frieze stock exchange and main sponsor Deutsche Bank will start an Italian tour this week along current conversations. First up on April 21 are the performers Dineo Seshee Bopape and Diana Policarpo, who will have shows at the Ocean Space Center in the Church of San Lorenzo (until October 2). A spokeswoman confirms that the next stops for The Art of Conversation are Rome and Milan.
Fresh off the sale of two of his Banksy works at Sotheby’s in March, British pop star Robbie Williams is back at the auction house, this time with work of her own. “Beverly” (2022), an eight-foot-tall painting created by Williams in collaboration with interior designer Ed Godrich, is valued at between £15,000 and £20,000 and is one of nine works the couple selected for an online auction to be held in April runs. 22-28.
Also works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Hambleton and of course Banksy are among their choice. This will be followed by a sales show of 14 collaborative works by Williams and Godrich at Sotheby’s on New Bond Street between 13-25 May, coinciding with London Gallery Weekend.
There has been a lot of uncertainty on London’s role as an art market center since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. In the latest Art Basel & UBS Art Market Report, economist Clare McAndrew found that China overtook the UK to take second place in the global ranking for 2021. Nicholas Maclean, co-founder of London and New York dealer Eykyn Maclean, admits ” the effects of Brexit have made things considerably more complicated for UK dealers,” but says: “It’s time to start waving the London flag.”
He points to the capital’s strong auction season in March, plus recent real estate pledges from major galleries such as Pace and Hauser & Wirth. Maclean, president of the Society of London Art Dealers, says the new members point to a vibrant market. These include Stuart Shave Modern Art, Didier Aaron and October Gallery. A key factor, he says, is that “so many great artists are based in this country, they still see it as a leading center.”
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