Christie’s to become Europe’s first auctioneer to accept cryptocurrency payment

An auction hammer.
Christie’s to become Europe’s first auctioneer to accept cryptocurrency payment

Christie’s is due to become the first major auction house in Europe to offer a work with the option for the buyer to pay their payment, including Buyer’s Premium, in cryptocurrency. 

The June 30 sale of Keith Haring’s Untitled (1984, estimate: £3.9m-£4.5m) will also mark the first time that a tangible work of art is being offered in Europe by an auction house with the option to pay in cryptocurrency. 

Originally owned by the celebrated German gallerist Paul Maenz, who unveiled the work in Cologne shortly after its creation, Untitled prophesises the dawn of a new era. Dating from 1984, the year that the first Apple Macintosh was released, it stands among the earliest painterly depictions of a computer, heralding the birth of the digital age.

Katharine Arnold, co-head, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe, said: “Christie’s has been pioneering the sale of digital artworks and use of cryptocurrencies throughout 2021. 

“It’s fitting that we are set to become the first auction house in Europe to offer the option to pay the final purchase price in cryptocurrency via the sale of Keith Haring’s Untitled, which anticipated the digital era as early as 1984. 

“This exquisite painting is one of the earliest depictions of the home computer, Apple having marketed their first at-home product earlier the same year. It celebrates a futuristic vision and we are thrilled to present the work as a highlight of our international London to Paris sale series.”

Across four conjoined panels measuring nine square metres, a sci-fi bacchanal unfolds. Flying saucers collide mid-air, while angels soar, monsters writhe and disembodied limbs pluck aeroplanes from their flight paths. At the centre, the computer reigns, mounted on a pyramid like an ancient deity. 

The structure assumes an anthropomorphic form, with the machine serving as the head; its outstretched arms, like scales, hold a spaceship and a human brain, as if triumphantly having superseded both as the world’s determining force. Tiny figures bow down before it, their arms raised in ecstatic worship. Loaned to the Neues Museum, Weimar, between 1993 and 2005, the work captures the clairvoyant power of Haring’s art, blending the utopian, the dystopian, the ancient and the contemporary into a thrilling vision of the future. 

Haring’s various mythic allusions coincided with the birth of a new, contemporary legend – the rise of the home computer. Following the release of the IBM PC in 1981, Apple unveiled its iconic Macintosh model on January 24, 1984.

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