DUBAI: The explosion of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, that has commanded global attention is now on the rise in Saudi Arabia. From Feb. 25-27, Sotheby’s auction house will host a three-day digital arts forum at the Diriyah Biennale, in Riyadh, in partnership with the Visual Arts Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture.
Saudi Arabia and its UAE neighbour have led the expansion of NFTs in the region. At the upcoming Art Dubai fair in March, for example, a new digital art section will showcase artworks from the rapidly expanding digital art realm.
The exhibition covers the recent history of NFTs, which can be loosely described as a certificate that exists only once, is immutable and cannot be interchanged, from the early NFTs a few years ago to the Pop Digital genre and Collectibles.
“When a collector buys an NFT, they are buying a token (or certificate) and thus the singular digital artwork or photograph linked to it,” Sotheby’s explained in a statement.
The show is also interactive, with visitors able to leave with a personalized Proof of Attendance Protocol, a digital collectible token in the form of an NFT that records their attendance on the blockchain.
Like the Diriyah Biennale, which runs until March 11, the forum aims to act as a platform for global dialogue and exchange. It includes a series of talks by experts in art, blockchain technology and NFTs.
“This educational focus on NFTs is a natural next step in Sotheby’s strong history of supporting innovative cultural programs and is testament to our longstanding commitment to Saudi Arabia echoing the Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030,” Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and India, said in a statement.
While the event is pivotal for the expansion of the Arab world’s digital scene, it also serves to highlight the rise in NFTs over the past year. According to Statista, as of April 12, 2021 “roughly 23,700 NFTs were sold in the art segment during the previous 30 days.” As of Feb. 15 this year the aggregated number of sales recorded on the Ethereum blockchain over 30 days reached approximately 35,500.
Since April 2021, Sotheby’s sales in this category have achieved approximately $100 million for 100 NFTs, setting numerous records along the way, including for a single CryptoPunk ($11.8 million) and for a single Bored Ape ($3.4 million). In June 2021, Sotheby’s also launched a digital replica of its New Bond Street Headquarters in London at a prime location in Decentraland’s Voltaire Art District, with five spaces inside to exhibit both purely digital artworks or digital replicas of physical works from our sales. Most recently, Sandro Botticelli’s “The Man of Sorrows” transformed one of Sotheby’s virtual galleries into a chapel interior ahead of its auction as part of Master Paintings at Sotheby’s New York.