Culture Trips

Grimes sells digital art collection for $6m | Grimes

The musician and artist Grimes has sold a collection of digital artworks for almost $6m in a high-profile endorsement of the craze for “non-fungible tokens” (NFTs) – images, film clips, animations and even poems which are being bought and sold online for increasingly large sums.

Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, announced the auction on Twitter a day before the collection went on sale.

A total of 10 artworks, produced in collaboration with Grimes’s brother Mac Boucher, were sold at the auction, which was branded WarNymph Collection Vol 1. Two of the works, short video pieces called Earth and Mars, were made available as large editions at a fixed price of $7,500 (£5,400), and each sold about 300 copies in the 48 hours they were on sale.

Others, including a video piece called Death of the Old, were sold as one-offs to the highest bidder, with the price nearing $400,000 after four buyers engaged in a bidding war.

All the pieces were sold as NFTs, a branch of the cryptocurrency sector that allows for artworks and other media to be “tokenised” and sold through similar mechanisms to digital assets such as bitcoin.

The field has seen a boom in recent weeks, with digital goods as varied as pixelated punks, pink cats, and a drawing of Homer Simpson as a green frog selling for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It has been hailed as a new way for artists to monetise their work, thanks to technical features allowing them to not only sell the token but also benefit from a percentage of the resale value.

But others have criticised NFTs for their lack of apparent utility and their environmental burden. When a digital asset is “sold”, the owner receives nothing other than an entry on a record: the actual image, video or song must still be protected using conventional copyright.

And, like many other pursuits in the cryptocurrency space, every transaction on the majority of NFT services uses an extraordinary amount of electricity. According to a calculator produced by digital artist Memo Akten, the sale of 303 editions of Grimes’s Earth used the same electrical power as the average EU resident would in 33 years, and produced 70 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

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