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CryptoPunks ‘have changed the history of art,’ says panel at Sotheby’s auction


CryptoPunks enthusiasts and hopeful bidders gathered Wednesday night at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City for what turned out to be a non-event after the consignor of 104 CryptoPunks decided to hodl.

In the wake of this announcement, however, a live panel discussion on the history of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and CryptoPunks took place. The panel consisted of Sherone Rabinovitz, technologist and CryptoPunk expert, and Kenny Schachter, art critic and curator. Colborn Bell, founder of the Museum of Crypto Art, moderated.

When asked about the early history of Larva Labs and CryptoPunks, Rabinovitz, who produced a documentary about the team in 2018, began by lauding CryptoPunks as the first project “to get everything right.” From the aesthetics to its marketplace, Larva Labs “sprinkled their magic” on an experiment to test digital ownership. He added that the beauty of CryptoPunks goes “beyond the pixels and the cultural payload,” and that the code is “gorgeous” enough to print, frame and hang on the wall.

In 2017, Larva Labs heralded blockchain-based generative art on Ethereum with its algorithm that randomly generated pixelated punk characters. Since then, Punks have gained mainstream recognition to become one of the world’s most valuable NFTs. It is currently the most traded collection in terms of volume of all time on OpenSea. 

Schachter, on the other hand, discovered NFTs and CryptoPunks much later in 2020, admitting he didn’t like it at first. “I think one of the most important things in life is to relate and try to understand why you don’t like what you don’t like,” he said, adding that he eventually learned to fall in love with CryptoPunks. He explained:

“They’ve become a paradigm shift in the history of culture, something which is a hybrid between Fine Art and collectibles. They have changed the history of art without even intending to be an art piece in the first place.”

Colborn then chimed in to point out that even though Schachter doesn’t own a Punk, he embodies the spirit of one. According to Colborn, Punks represents people who are fearless, who speak their minds, who let their values be known and recognize that change is possible.

Rabinovitz noted that an element about CryptoPunks that goes “unappreciated” is that the collection falls within the pop art movement, alongside Andy Warhol’s work:

“If you’re focusing too much on rarity, you’re kind of missing the point. Don’t forget what Punks are. They’re ambassadors of a whole new age, and a new movement.”

Schachter, who launched his own parody collection of NFTs called CryptoMutts, left the audience with his hopes for a future where all digital works will be projected into real space and where NFT communities continue to inspire more artists.

Related: 101 Bored Apes NFT auction at Sotheby’s closes at more than $24M

Last year, Sotheby’s set a world record with an $11.8 million sale for a single CryptoPunk. And Bored Apes Yacht Club, the second-most traded NFT collection, flipped CryptoPunks’ floor price. At the time of publication, the lowest priced Punk is at 59.95 ETH, or $148,223, whereas the lowest priced Bored Ape goes for 80 ETH, or $201,549.

CryptoPunks earned the #20 ranking in Cointelegraph’s 2022 list of Top 100 influencers in crypto and blockchain.