A blockchain-based artwork has been auctioned by the prestigious Christie’s auction house in New York for the first time.

Sold for a record breaking $131,250, the piece, titled “Block 21”, is comprised of a artwork painting and a digital non-fungible-token (NFT).

Created by artist Robert Alice with NFT specialists Async Labs, the digital element of the artwork is only visible during daylight hours, based on where the artwork it is located.

Block 21 is a part of Portraits of a Mind, a global art project launched at Christie’s New York made up of 40 paintings which together form a hand-painted transcription of the 12.8 million digits of code behind Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency. The first 20 pieces of artwork are now located across 14 different cities, with no individual owner having all of the code, representing the decentralised nature of blockchain.

The auction took place online, with 18 collectors bidding on the artwork from three different continents.

The artwork was valued at $12,000-18,000, meaning it sold for ten times its original estimate and making it the most expensive publicly sold NFT in the world.

Founded by London-based artist Benjamin Gentilli in 2018, the Robert Alice project promotes blockchain within the visual arts.

“Christie’s is delighted to have been entrusted with this innovative work – part of which is the first NFT that we have ever offered at auction – and are very pleased that it culminated in such a fantastic price realised,” said Vivian Brodie, post-war and contemporary art specialist at Christie’s.

“The result we hope speaks to Robert Alice’s Portraits of a Mind as a landmark work of art for the blockchain space and an important contribution to art history. It has been a series of firsts for us and we have enjoyed welcoming the crypto community to our galleries.”


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