There are two original glass plate negatives of a photo by artist Charles Goldie, but Webb’s auction house doesn’t sell them – they sell each photo’s NFT, a unique digital code.
“But here’s the interesting thing, if you buy the NFT, you get the plate with it,” said Webb’s auction house art manager Charles Ninow.
“We take something done on a specific day and a specific time and it’s really important to New Zealand history and in a way we make it immortal.”
Webb’s is New Zealand’s first major auction house to do so, but it’s nothing compared to the NFT craze sweeping the virtual world.
Last year, digital artist Beeple couldn’t believe the price of an NFT.
“$69 million – I think that means digital art is here to stay”; he said.
Unique digital avatars are also fetching huge sums, with one Cryptopunk selling for US$10 million.
There’s celebrity endorsement with Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon using Bored Ape avatars, while All Blacks Ardie and Julian Savea have Party Bears.
“Yeah, there’s an incredible amount of money being spent in the industry and it’s definitely in a bit of a bubble,” said NFT Fluf World New Zealand maker co-founder Alex Smeele.
If someone buys a bunny avatar, they can enter a metaverse, or virtual world, where you can possibly socialize with rapper Snoop Dogg.
“When it comes to NFT digital art and the metaverse as well, there are so many opportunities to redefine yourself and really express yourself as you feel and it’s a really empowering experience,” says Smeele.
It’s a real world away from when Goldie was photographed in his studio.
A price guide for this Friday’s auction is $5000 to $8000 per NFT and there’s a twist involving
the glass negative and a hammer.
“Maybe you might want to make it digital permanently. Break it? Break it,” Ninow says.
Welcome to a world where digital means more than physical.