16 minutes News

16 Minutes #56: When Christie’s Meets Crypto — The NFT Moment

Kayvon Tehranian and Zoran Basich

Posted February 25, 2021

In this week’s episode of 16 Minutes — where we talk about tech trends in the news, what’s hype/ what’s real, and where we are on the long arc of innovation — the topic is NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”); specifically, the news that Christie’s has become the first major auction house to offer a purely digital artwork tied to an NFT or “non-fungible token.”

We’ll go more into NFTs (as well as whether this is really a big deal or not) in this episode, but here’s the news context:

  • The work of art being auctioned is a digital collage by the digital artist Beeple; it’s called Everydays: The First 5,000 Days.
  • The Christie’s auction begins today and runs through March 11.

It’s news because Christie’s, a 250-year-old auction house, is an established presence in the traditional art marketplace, and it’s the first time NFTs (which have been much-buzzed-about in the crypto world for several months) are being formally embraced by the traditional art world.

For quick context, NFTs are digital tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, which allow art and other digital assets and collectibles to be verified as unique, hence the term non-fungible (as compared to other, more fungible tokens). They reflect the properties of crypto and blockchains more broadly, such as the ability to track provenance and attribute funds to creators via smart contracts. (For more discussion of NFTs and related themes, check out our previous podcasts Crypto for Creators: From Art Galleries to ‘Tokenized’ Collectibles and The New Fan Club: Creators, Fans, and the Power of Markets (& Crypto).

Zoran Basich of a16z talked to NFT expert Kayvon Tehranian, CEO and founder of Foundation Labs, a marketplace for digital art and collectibles, to help us dig into the Christie’s news and broader trend — all in less than 16 Minutes!