Live Auction February 23 2022
The first NFT and cultural event of its kind, Sotheby’s are proud to present a live evening sale auction of digital artwork; a single-lot sale of 104 CryptoPunks acquired simultaneously in a singular blockchain transaction by anonymous collector “0x650d”. The stand-alone acquisition connects each of the 104 Punks with the same provenance; a now infamous wallet that significantly represents more than 1% of the entire CryptoPunks collection, ascribing the group with unique value as one of the largest Punk collections held by a single wallet and collector. The motley crew of over one hundred Punks showcases the diversity embedded in the original algorithm. Representing the wide variety of innovative and beguiling traits synonymous with the celebrated Punk visual lexicon, PUNK IT! offers mohawk haircuts, sunglasses, cigarettes, a range of head wear and other accessories that differentiate the characters and prescribe their unique and curious identities.
No visual idiom has ever encapsulated such a myriad of tumultuous change on the global socio-political and indeed digital stage as Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks. Already cemented as a historic pop cultural emblem in the world’s visual psyche; the generationally defining artistic signifier of our time, CryptoPunks launched on the blockchain in June of 2017. Created by Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson, CryptoPunks were originally free to acquire for any ETH wallet holder. This was a true testament to the community-orientated and collector-lead approach of the avatar, PFP (profile picture) project and a notion that resonated highly with the hacker spirit that populated much of the early experimentation across Bitcoin and Ethereum. Furthermore, the technology used to create the Punks inspired the ERC-721 standard that is used for much of today’s digital art and collectibles.
The finite and highly sought-after collection of CryptoPunks consists of 10,000 Punks, each with their own unique and distinct characteristics, in which no two are the same. Comprising of 9 Aliens, 24 Apes, 88 Zombies, 3840 Females and 6,039 Males, the Punks are further distinguished by a visual vocabulary of associated rarities and attributes. Every Punk has a unique set of attributes, with between 0 to 8 distinguishing characteristics. Notably, the 8 Punks devoid of any attributes all together have been dubbed as the ‘Genesis Punks.’
Referencing the wave of Protopunk that swept the United States in the late 1960s, which subsequently established a heady and requisite punk scene in New York and London in the mid-70s, the 24 x 24 pixel, 8-bit-style Punks embody the nostalgic punk spirit of a bygone yesteryear. Further reflecting the Crypto Anarchist philosophy that brought together many of the original proponents of the early crypto infrastructure, CryptoPunks are steeped in subcultural and subversive discourse, as well as notions of anti-establishment and counterculture in the NFT community.
A symbol for the democratization, demystification and decentralization of the mercurial world of cryptocurrency, Cryptopunks significantly predate the roadmap format adopted by many brands and artists navigating the NFT space today. An NFT roadmap is a manifesto mapping out the goals and strategies of an NFT project in order to communicate its long-term value. Typically, NFT roadmaps include key project milestones, short and long-term goals, and plans for marketing and growth. Roadmaps are inextricably linked to the world of trade and finance, and it is within the NFT space that a project devoid of a roadmap emotively situates the art and the love of collecting at the heart of its agenda. With this in mind, Punks reside at centre of the NFT and crypto ecosystem. Their frequent appearance on the Twitter profiles of prominent individuals in the NFT space serves as a constant reminder of the Punk movement’s capacity to offer collectors a refuge of trust and community amongst the wilderness of social media.
Indeed, as signifiers of digital identity, financial investment and access to an exclusive and engaging online community, the NFT avatar market as a phenomenon has grown exponentially in 2021. As a generation preoccupied with social media and the concept of the digital self, we are motivated to cultivate our online brands, to the extent that our digital identity is a key aspect of our personhood. NFT avatars such as CryptoPunks go beyond the realms of digital art. As unique assets with intrinsic value in the metaverse they hold significant status and a profound desirability on the secondary market. The rise of popular generative avatar projects such as Bored Ape Yacht Club can be traced directly back to the CryptoPunk mold. Punks were designed as pseudonymous portraits, masks for those crypto pioneers that value the idea of privacy in the modern age. Avatars, portraits or masks, they stand as semiotic reference points to a specific internet crypto native identity that now spreads itself across social networks. More recent Punk owners include Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Snoop Dogg and Serena Williams, however it must be noted that early collectors include Snowfro, Seedphrase and GMoney; now heralded as traditional heavy weight collectors in the NFT space.
Embodying the philosophies of pseudonymity, community, and tradability that are essential to the blockchain ecosystem, and further representing the technology’s elegant simplicity, the CryptoPunks journey to non-fungible stardom situates the collection alongside Modern & Contemporary art that seeks to reflect the nascent culture of our time. Simultaneously representing the original NFT community in the purest guise, Punks are the vanguard of our generation, challenging the maintained perspectives of artistic and cultural production. Creating a whole new audience for collecting art with digitally native collectors, Punks were born, and will continue to live, immutably, on the Ethereum blockchain.