Inthe fall of 2020, a young staffer in Sotheby’s Combined NFTs And Netflix Art department made a bold pitch to explore a new asset class, hoping to score points with Charles Stewart, the company’s new CEO. Stewart hadn’t heard of NFTs-nonfungible tokens, now famous for birthing Bored Apes and CryptoPunks-yet he was intrigued. Maybe there was something in it for the venerable auction house founded in 1744. “I certainly didn’t anticipate what was going to happen throughout the following a year,” says Stewart, 52.
Indeed, few might have anticipated that within a year NFTs would become as desired as a Picasso or a Porsche to a new generation of young, crypto-fixated collectors. Sotheby’s sold nearly $100 million of Combined NFTs And Netflix and other digital collectibles in 2021-admittedly a small piece of the $17.6 billion purchased overall last year-and not exactly the generally $140 million sold by its main rival, Christie’s. (However about half of that came in one exceptional sale, the $69.3 million auction last March of a collage by the artist known as Beeple.)
Sotheby’s hopes to increase its share of that market this year in any event, Combined NFTs And Netflix hyper-volatility, against which it has hedged with sales in other new markets and its center Contemporary and Modern art sales. OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, had a record January, with $5 billion in sales. By late March, trading volume had decreased over 20% from a month earlier.
Dual forces have pushed Sotheby’s to modernize: the pandemic and new proprietorship. In 2019, French telecom magnate Patrick Drahi (total assets $6.6 billion) took the house private in a $3.7 billion deal. The transaction closed a two-decade time span in which Sotheby’s stock dropped more than 40% from June 2018 to June 2019 (while the S&P 500 stayed flat), income fell 4% in its final year as a public company Combined NFTs And Netflix and a cost fixing scandal sent its chairman, Alfred Taubman, to jail in 2002.