Sotheby’s Metaverse, the auction house’s NFT marketplace, is getting an upgrade. The marketplace will now expand to include not just primary market offerings but also secondary sales, through which collectors can sell directly to each other.
“The first phase of our launch has successfully proven that our traditional and digitally native collectors alike could coalesce around Sotheby’s to form a new community,” said Sebastian Fahey, an executive lead for Sotheby’s Metaverse, in a press release. “Now, we are continuing to advance and evolve our platform to offer new and more seamless ways for the community to discover and collect new forms of digital collectibles.”
The auction house is rejiggering Metaverse so that the platform operates entirely on-chain, allowing for peer-to-peer transactions on both Ethereum and Polygon. Yet it will operate quite differently from secondary NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, where any user can upload any NFTs they want.
In the initial phases of the new Metaverse, collectors will be able to list works from only 13 artists: Tyler Hobbs, Claire Silver, XCOPY, Diana Sinclair, IX Shells, Sarah Zucker, Refik Anadol, Sofia Crespo, Sam Spratt, Pindar van Arman, Osinachi, Hackatao, and Sebastião Salgado. It’s a strategy that will allow Metaverse to skirt some of the issues that other secondary platforms faced.
OpenSea was constantly inundated with plagiarized, low-quality, or stolen NFT projects that left collectors feeling burned not just by scammers but by a marketplace that could offer little in the way of compensation for lost investments. By restricting the works that collectors can list, Metaverse will be better able to avoid dealing with bad actors while keeping the quality of works on offer high.
Metaverse has also made a commitment to enforcing artist royalties that used to be part and parcel of NFT sales but have become optional on all other major NFT marketplaces as the market took a downturn.
The auction house first launched Metaverse in the fall of 2021. The site hosted its first auction soon after with its second-ever “Natively Digital” sale (titled “Natively Digital 1.2”). Debuting in a still-hot market, the auction realized a smashing $18.6 million in sales with works by generative artists Dmitri Cherniak and IX Shells as well as profile-pic NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club.
But since that debut, Metaverse has only hosted the sale of individual NFT collections, like a series of NFTs of photographs by Sebastião Salgado that were sold for fundraising purposes or Erick Calderon’s Chromie Squiggles NFT project. Sotheby’s recurring “Natively Digital” sales, like the recent “Glitch: Beyond Binary,” were hosted on Sotheby’s main online bidding platform instead of Metaverse, as was expected when the marketplace launched. It’s unclear why.
“We will continue to host sales across Sothebys.com and Sotheby’s Metaverse, as utilizing both platforms allows us greater flexibility across primary and secondary market sales,” said Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s Head of Digital Art and NFTs, in a comment to ARTnews. “With both platforms we are better positioned to strategically bring sales to market and provide clients with a greater range of options.”
Update 5/4/23 5:48PM: This article was amended to include a comment from Sotheby’s.