Auction house sells glass negatives as NFTs, urging buyers to “smash” the originals.

“Charles Frederick Goldie at His Easel” by Rupert Farnall Studios (c. 1910-1920), one of two photographs sold by 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), urging buyers to destroy the originals.

Webb’s, headquartered in Auckland two NFTs based on photographs by the polemical artist Charles Goldie, known for his portraits of Māori elders. Each stamp was accompanied by “a framed contact sheet of the image and the original glass plate negative” presented in a custom-made pine box.

Also included in each lot, as per a description in Open sea, where the NFTs were minted was “a small brass hammer”. The tool appears to give token buyers the ability to break the glass plates and obliterate the physical object in order to – presumably – increase the digital asset.

“You might want to make it digital permanently,” said Charles Ninow, Webb’s head of art newshub. “Smash them? Smash them.”

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 from Web3 runs just greata blog that she describes as highlighting “just 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 odd selling pitch sarcasmderiding strategy as a gimmick that illustrates how the crypto space thrives on controversy.

“I suspect the whole thing was a calculated move by the auction house. They knew offering a gavel and suggesting buyers smash up a historical artifact to make the project “permanently digital” would be provocative and generate interest,” White told Hyperallergic. “They also appear to have been successful – both auctions closed at prices well in excess of estimates – but certainly at the expense of the fact that they can claim to be motivated by a love of art rather than money.”

Webb’s has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.


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