Guy who lost out on US$69m Beeple NFT moved on to Picasso

Published Thu, Apr 1, 2021 · 10:49 PM

[LONDON] Shortly after losing out on the auction for a US$69.3 million digital artwork by Beeple, Justin Sun, a tech entrepreneur who founded the cryptocurrency platform Tron, contacted the Christie's sales department looking for more NFT-connected artworks.

"The team in China was clever enough to say that we don't have NFTs to offer, but has he seen this wonderful sale that's just been announced in London?" says Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice-chairman of Christie's 20th and 21st centuries department. After perusing the sale, Mr Bertazzoni says, Mr Sun became intrigued in "some brand names like Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat, Renoir-those were relevant to him."

Today, Christie's has announced that this much hoped-for crossover between the NFT market and the traditional art market has borne fruit.

Mr Sun was the purchaser, Mr Bertazzoni says, of Pablo Picasso's Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) for £14.6 million (S$ $27.1 million), and Andy Warhol's Three Self Portraits from 1986 for £1.5 million. Both paintings were sold during the auction house's 20th Century evening sale, which was livestreamed from London on March 23.

The Picasso, which depicts the artist's lover and muse Marie Thérèse, is from 1932, "the date everyone wants; it's considered the golden year," Mr Bertazzoni says. "It's the year his passion for her reaches an apogee." The painting was the second most expensive lot in the sale, second only to an oil painting by Banksy.

Sun was not immediately available for comment. "To us, it's interesting, because it shows everything we're doing at the moment is connected," Mr Bertazzoni says. "We just have to keep innovating."

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