On March 11, 2021, Christie’s made history by selling the digital piece Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple (real name Mike Winkelmann) for an astounding $69.3 million, so far the most ever for a digital asset with an NFT. But three years earlier, the concept of crypto art was apparently lost on attendees of the same auction house’s first annual Art+Tech Summit on July 17. And with that, millions of crypto may be gone forever.
“We were excited for the opportunity to introduce a new group to the experience of digital art collecting,” SuperRare blogged on Medium one day after the event, “so we partnered with artist Robbie Barrat and digital art maven Jason Bailey to release a limited edition series of CryptoArt as gifts for all 300 attendees.” Everyone at the summit was given a unique, computer-generated variant of Barrat’s creation AI Generated Nude Portrait #7 in an Ethereum wallet.
However, according to SuperRare’s Zack Yanger, “trying to explain cryptoart and Ethereum to the traditional art world in 2018 was like trying to explain Netflix to Blockbuster in 1998.” Three months after the summit, the young Barrat became the toast of the art world when the code he wrote was used to create Portrait of Edmond Belamy, which sold for $432,500 and was the first-ever AI-generated piece auctioned by Christie’s. Although he received no royalties from its sale at the time, Barrat’s cachet skyrocketed accordingly.
Late last year, Yanger decided to see what had come of the 300 digital versions of Barrat’s AI Generated Nude Portrait #7, and he found that only 12 of them had ever been claimed. One of them was apparently resold on the secondary market for 8.22 ETH ($13,736).
But what of the other 288? He considers them “lost forever, AKA – The Lost Robbies.”
And when you see the leaps made in Barrat’s work from then to what it is now, Yanger may be right when he says the blunders made by the owners of the unclaimed token holders “could very well end up going down in the history books as one of the biggest missed opportunities in art history.”