W hen Dmitri Cherniak’s Ringers #879 sold for 1,800 ETH in August 2021 (approximately $5.9 million USD at the time), it became one of the most valuable works from his acclaimed generative art project. The Ringers series of whirligig pictures is made by an algorithm according to a set of parameters defined by the artist – a computer scientist inspired by Mondrian, Kandinsky and early generative artists; earlier this year Ringers #962 became LACMA’s first acquisition of blockchain art.
Each Ringer is unique, and it just so happens that Ringers #879 looks kind of like a yellow-billed bird, earning it the nickname “the Goose.” On 15 June, the beloved artwork went to the auction block at Sotheby’s as part of the highly anticipated dedicated sale of the GRAILS Collection, which stands as the largest live auction of digital art. The salesroom was packed, energized by an electric hum that jolted to life when auctioneer Ashkan Baghestani opened the lot. Three collectors traded offers back and forth for several minutes in a bidding battle that ultimately saw the work sell for $6.2 million to 6529 NFT Fund, marking a new auction record for the artist.
Bidding Battle for Dmitri Cherniak’s ‘Ringers #879 (The Goose)’
With the strike of a gavel, the Goose became the second most valuable work of generative art ever sold at auction. “Once the algorithm is committed to the blockchain, nobody knows what outputs it will produce,” says the work’s new owner, who goes by @punk6529 on Twitter. “The Goose represents this more clearly than any generative NFT. We could have run the Ringers mint thousands of times without producing anything like it again.”
That sale alone was enough to send the auction soaring over its high estimate of $4.8 million, but 36 more works brought the evening’s final tally to a staggering $11 million. All but one work surpassed their high estimates, and all told eight new auction records were set in an international event that encompassed seventeen countries and counted half of its bidders under the age of forty. Following several private sales and a sequence of works from GRAILS within last month’s Contemporary Evening Auction – in which Tyler Hobbs’s Fidenza 725 sold for $1 million, five times its high estimate – the collection’s total currently stands at $17 million.
The auction was the strongest recent sign of a renaissance in the genre following an immersive exhibition that took over the auction house’s New York headquarters and filled the galleries with works of generative art. Earlier this month, Sotheby’s Jaclyn Lavy gave a lecture at NFC Lisbon in Portugal to discuss the innovative collection and its place in the century-long lineage of generative art. And this May saw the auction house launch Metaverse 2.0, expanding its dedicated digital-art platform into a fully on-chain, curated marketplace that also features generative works. Metaverse Expansion opens with a curated selection of the most exciting on-chain artists, from Hobbs and XCOPY to Claire Silver and Sarah Zucker, each of whom is contextualized by scholars and critics.
Goose morning to all.
GRAILS: Part II, the largest-ever live auction of digital art takes place at 4pm ET today at Sotheby's New York. There's still time to bid: https://t.co/FdBdObG56I #SothebysGRAILS pic.twitter.com/zDXiMRRc1M
— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) June 15, 2023
Digital art may grab fewer headlines than it has in recent years, but the blockchain is becoming increasingly ingrained as a new generation of digital pioneers finds novel ways to deploy the technology and expand the artistic dialogue with their forebears. Meanwhile, even the most traditional artists and institutions are adopting aspects into their practices. Just as Michael Bouhanna, Head of Digital Art & NFT at Sotheby’s, predicted at the beginning of the year, what we’re seeing with generative art today is that artistry, technique and quality are now driving the market.