Exclusive: Sotheby’s Launches Secondary NFT Marketplace

The Alpha:

Today, legacy auction house Sotheby’s launched its own secondary marketplace for fine art NFTs, according to information shared exclusively with nft now.
The marketplace is an expansion of Sotheby’s Metaverse, the company’s digital artwork and collectibles platform. The peer-to-peer marketplace will feature fully on-chain sales showcasing a rotating selection of high-profile Web3 artists curated by Sotheby’s specialists. All transactions will take place on the Ethereum and Polygon networks. Collectors will be able to purchase works on the platform with ETH or MATIC.
To inaugurate the marketplace’s launch, Sotheby’s is offering collectors a chance to buy and list works by 13 Web3-defining artists, including Tyler Hobbs, XCOPY, Claire Silver, Diana Sinclair, Sam Spratt, Pindar Van Arman, and more.

Dive deeper

When Sotheby’s makes a move in Web3, people pay attention. The auction house has facilitated some of the most historic sales in the NFT world’s existence. Perhaps the most notable of these were Pak’s $17 million auction with the company in April 2021 and the first of the auction house’s Natively Digital series in June of the same year. Natively Digital saw Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s Quantum, the first NFT ever made, sell for over a million dollars. Recognizing the significance of the Web3 movement in the fine art world, the company launched Sotheby’s Metaverse in October 2021 and hasn’t looked back since.

“When Sotheby’s Metaverse first launched more than a year ago, our goal was to bring to market a first-of-its-kind platform that would be distinguished by the expertise and vision of our specialists to curate sales of NFTs,” Sebastian Fahey, Sotheby’s Managing Director, EMEA, and Executive Lead for Metaverse said in a press release shared with nft now.

“Now, we are continuing to advance and evolve our platform to offer new and more seamless ways for the community to discover and collect new forms of digital collectibles, from limited edition NFTs to unique works by the artists redefining perceptions of digital art.”

The new secondary marketplace will feature a rotating selection of artists’ work selected by Sotheby’s digital art specialists. The first 13 artists to be included in the platform’s launch are Tyler Hobbs, Claire Silver, XCOPY, Diana Sinclair, IX Shells, Sarah Zucker, Refik Anadol, Sofia Crespo, Sam Spratt, Pindar van Arman, Osinachi, Hackatao, and Sebastião Salgado.

Right-click and Save As guy. Credit: XCOPY
Birth of Luci. Credit: Sam Spratt

The royalties question

Due to the success the platform has seen through its primary sales initiatives, Sotheby’s Metaverse is now trying to establish itself as the go-to fine art platform for the secondary market as well.

As such, it’s being deliberate in how it handles the hot-button issue of artist royalties in the NFT ecosystem. The auction house says it will honor artist royalties on its secondary platform via marketplace smart contracts and in accordance with artists’ stated on-chain royalty rate. The decision to support artists in this way comes at a time when platforms are lowering the amount of royalties they pay out to artists in a bid to attract more users and gain a majority share of market volume.

Shared Moments of Observation. Credit: Sofia Crespo

Royalties have played a massive role in building the crypto art community over the years and have served as one of Web3’s main draws for artists looking to earn a sustainable income from their work. In response to platforms like OpenSea and Blur reducing royalties enforcement in recent months, more and more creatives have begun calling for the creation of independent and artist-led marketplaces that focus on protecting their interests.

“Sotheby’s commitment to honoring artist royalties comes amidst a larger debate about royalties within the NFT community and signals Sotheby’s artist-first ethos as one of the only major NFT marketplaces committed to artist resale royalties,” the press release said of its policy.

What’s next

In June, Sotheby’s will also establish a new digital art gallery through the Web3 art gallery platform oncyber, which will exhibit select works from the secondary market. For the oncyber gallery launch, Sotheby’s Metaverse is partnering with well-known digital art collector Cozomo de’ Medici, who will curate one of the gallery’s rooms to feature a selection of works from their famed collection.

The news of the marketplace and oncyber gallery comes in the wake of controversy for Sotheby’s. In April 2023, the company found itself the target of heated criticism when it announced the latest iteration of its Natively Digital series, a show honoring glitch artists in the NFT sphere that featured no women artists. After public outcry, Sotheby’s quickly paused and then relaunched the show featuring a more diverse lineup.

Coupled with the fact that volumes in the NFT market are at 20-month lows and floor prices for even the most sought-after fine art collections have fallen sharply as well, Sotheby’s secondary marketplace is entering the scene at a tricky time.

In case you missed it:

Sotheby’s Unveils New NFT Platform Sotheby’s Metaverse
Sotheby’s Relaunches Glitch Art Auction with Diverse Lineup Following Backlash
Bored Ape Sotheby’s Auction Closes at $24.4 Million

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