Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and their headline-grabbing prices disrupted the traditional art world in 2021, legitimizing digital art and bringing in a whole new breed of buyers. Mari-Claudia Jiménez—chairman, managing director, and worldwide head of business development, global fine arts for Sotheby’s auction house—offers insights on their influence, the state of the global market, and more.
In 2021, digital art changed the way people view and buy art. What were the biggest surprises?
Digital art and NFTs have taken the market by storm, and by October 2021, we sold over US$95 million worth of NFTs. Digital art is a very different way of thinking about art, and its connection with bitcoin and cryptocurrency created a broader market. It brought in many cryptocurrency investors who weren’t art collectors but who were thinking about asset-portfolio diversification.
How have these new buyers affected the overall market?
Some clients who initially came for the NFTs have stayed and have started buying some traditional art. It’s a definite trend—most of them are not art collectors. They skew younger—43% of our NFT buyers are under age 40. In our other sales, 40% of all buyers are under 40.