“W hat is different for the viewer between a two-dimensional Picasso on a wall and a superb flatscreen showing an incredible piece of digital art?” MaxStealth, a prolific collector of NFTs, says not much. Cubism unlocked the illusion of depth on a flat plane, but AR, VR and the Metaverse bring new artistic visions to life.
MaxStealth — the chosen moniker for the anonymous collector — is part of a new mode of patronage in the history of art collecting. Relationships between artists and collectors have always been essential to artistic production, and Web3 visionaries have shaped this thriving new space with their commitment to supporting emerging artists and new forms of art-making.
MaxStealth’s own collection includes work by some of the most prominent artists working on-chain, including XCOPY, Pak, Hackatao and Beeple. Now, a selection of 26 of the most iconic works in his collection are coming to auction in the first single-owner NFT sale. On 14 September, it will also be the first NFT auction to take place live in Sotheby’s auction room, lending the event an extra degree of prestige.
In a rare conversation, the New Zealand–born MaxStealth told Sotheby’s that he began collecting at the beginning of the NFT boom. His multidimensional collection tells “a story about a unique period in time,” he says. In under a year of avid activity, MaxStealth broke many NFT records, and his purchases shaped the market. The core of his collection consists of seven works bought over seven days in October 2020. The artists, from Pak to XCOPY, are some of the most prominent crypto artists of the time, and MaxStealth’s acquisitions established his reputation as a trendsetter and visionary collector.
Two works by Pak are coming to the block. Conversion Routine and Tide Routine (both 2020) depict bodies of animated cubes rotating and evolving into new minimalistic forms. The works are standout pieces from the mysterious artist’s ongoing “Routine” series, a conceptual project that explores the application of game theory to the art market.
A work titled Departed (2018) is one of the earliest minted works made by XCOPY, a prominent GIF artist from the early aughts and a pioneer of crypto art. The work reflects the London-based artist’s signature dark glitch aesthetic; a six-eyed, shadowy figure quivers in front of a changing background, like a shadowy web denizen emerging from the depths of networked society. MaxStealth, who acquired the work on the secondary market, says there was never any question his collection would include a work by the “superstar.”
Inside the World of MaxStealth: A Timeless Collection
Other outstanding lots from “Inside the World of MaxStealth: A Timeless Collection” include dreamlike renderings by RAC and Andrés Riesinger, playful animations by Hackato that reference Kubrick and Warhol, and two animations by musician and crypto innovator 3LAU. Each work in the 26-lot auction is a rare edition of one.
MaxStealth told Sotheby’s that this collection of work represents a unique chapter of art history in the digital age. Art collections have always sought to elevate the cultural significance and value of objects by forging connections and representing artistic community. Today, one of the first great NFT collections is also a sum greater than its parts: it is a slice of yet-to-be-written history, a celebration of the innovation and impact of one of today’s most important artistic projects. NFTs, according to MaxStealth, are more than just an emerging medium — he says they are an expression of “the Metaverse, where future generations will live and connect.”