Auction House Sells Glass Negatives As NFTs And Tells Buyers To “Smash” the Originals

Valentina Di Liscia
“Charles Frederick Goldie at His Easel” by Rupert Farnall Studios (c. 1910-1920), one of two photos sold by the New Zealand auction house Webb’s as NFTs (via Wikimedia Commons) A New Zealand auction house sold two glass plate negatives as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and encouraged the buyers to destroy the originals. Webb’s, headquartered in Auckland, listed two NFTs based on photographs of the polemical artist Charles Goldie, known for his portraits of Māori elders. Each token was accompanied by “a framed contact print of the image and the original glass plate negative” presented in a custom-built pine box. Also included with each lot, according to a description in OpenSea, where the NFTs were minted, was “a small brass hammer.” The tool appears meant to give purchasers of the tokens the option of shattering the glass plates, eradicating the physical object in order to — presumably — elevate the digital asset. “Perhaps you might want to make it permanently digital,” Webb’s Head of Art Charles Ninow told Newshub. “Smash it? Smash it.” The NFTs of “Charles Frederick Goldie at His Easel” and “Charles Frederick Goldie in His Studio” sold this week for $51,250 and $76,250, respectively. The story was tweeted by Molly White of Web3 Is Going Just Great, a blog that she describes as highlighting “only a small number of all the hacks, scams, and bad ideas that are so prevalent in crypto and web3 projects.” Some responded to the auction house’s strange sales pitch with sarcasm, mocking the strategy as a gimmick that exemplifies the ways in which the crypto space profits from controversy. “I suspect the whole thing was a calculated move by the auction house. They knew that offering a hammer and suggesting the buyers smash a historical artifact to make the project ‘permanently digital’ would be provocative and generate interest,” White told Hyperallergic. “They seem to have been successful, too — both auctions closed at prices far above the estimates — but certainly at the cost of being able to claim to be motivated by their love of art rather than money.” Webb’s has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
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