Sotheby's auctioning Kevin McCoy's 'Quantum' – first NFT ever made

The octagon-shaped animation was made in 2014, three years before the term NFT was coined

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: Kevin McCoy’s Quantum (2014) – the first artwork ever minted – goes on view as part of ‘Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale’ at Sotheby's on June 04, 2021 in London, England. The exhibition is on view until 10 June, when the sale closes for bidding. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's)
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The first non-fungible token (NFT) ever created, the origin of a craze that is sweeping the art market, has gone on sale at Sotheby's.

Quantum is an octagon-shaped animation by New York artist Kevin McCoy. It became the first work to be associated with a NFT-type certificate of ownership in May 2014, three years before the term NFT was coined.

An NFT is a digital object such as a drawing, animation, piece of music, photo, or video with a certificate of authenticity created by blockchain technology. It cannot be forged or otherwise manipulated.

Sotheby's has no pre-sale estimate for Quantum, which had already reached $140,000 on Friday, a day after it went on sale. The Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale ends on June 10.

Quantum by Kevin McCoy digital art collectible created in 2014 is pictured ahead of a non-fungible token (NFT) auction in this handout obtained May 31, 2021. Courtesy of Sotheby's/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
'Quantum' by Kevin McCoy (2014) is pictured ahead of a non-fungible token (NFT) auction at Sotheby's. Courtesy Sotheby's

"In 10 years looking back, if in fact these are to grow, this piece can represent and symbolise the start of something that is quite revolutionary and very impactful," said Max Moore, vice president of contemporary art at Sotheby's in New York.

NFT exchanges happen in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin on specialist sites. Traditional auction houses are seeking to capitalise on the new phenomenon.

"I fell in love with Bitcoin in early 2013 and just got really interested in that world," said McCoy, 54, a multimedia artist.

He is a pioneer of NFTs that currently generate several hundred million dollars in transactions every month.

McCoy even helped design his own platform for the exchange of certified digital objects: Monograph, which is no longer active.

"There was a lot of misunderstanding at the time," McCoy recalled, saying the mainstream art world struggled to understand the cryptocurrency world, which had itself had little appreciation of art.

He says the craze is only beginning, but refuses to consider how huge it may become. "The Sotheby's thing is ... a big test to see what happens as far as that goes. Honestly, I don't have any expectations," McCoy said.

The NFT boom is being fuelled by early investors in cryptocurrencies who became millionaires.

In March, Christie's sold an NFT for $69.3 million.

Sotheby's held its first NFT auction in April. During the Quantum sale it is also selling a virtual character called Alice who will be able to interact with her future owner using artificial intelligence.