Crypto Investor Moves On to Picasso After $69 Million Beeple NFT Miss

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Shortly after losing out on the auction for a $69.3 million digital artwork by Beeple, Justin Sun, a tech entrepreneur who founded the cryptocurrency platform Tron, contacted the Christie’s sales department looking for more NFT-connected artworks.

“The team in China was clever enough to say that we don’t have NFTs to offer, but has he seen this wonderful sale that’s just been announced in London?” says Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice-chairman of Christie’s 20th and 21st centuries department. 

After perusing the sale, Bertazzoni says, Sun became intrigued in “some brand names like Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat, Renoir—those were relevant to him.”

Crypto Investor Moves On to Picasso After $69 Million Beeple NFT Miss

Today, Christie’s has announced that this much hoped-for crossover between the NFT market and the traditional art market has borne fruit.

Sun was the purchaser, Bertazzoni says, of Pablo Picasso’s Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) for £14.6 million (about $20 million), and Andy Warhol’s Three Self Portraits from 1986 for £1.5 million. Both paintings were sold during the auction house’s 20th Century evening sale, which was livestreamed from London on March 23. 

The Picasso, which depicts the artist’s lover and muse Marie Thérèse, is from 1932, “the date everyone wants; it’s considered the golden year,” Bertazzoni says. “It’s the year his passion for her reaches an apogee.” The painting was the second most expensive lot in the sale, second only to an oil painting by Banksy.

Crypto Investor Moves On to Picasso After $69 Million Beeple NFT Miss

“To us, it’s interesting, because it shows everything we’re doing at the moment is connected,” Bertazzoni says. “We just have to keep innovating.”

Sun, who bought the popular software file sharing application BitTorrent for $120 million in 2018, is known as a marketer who has made splashes by spending large sums of money before. In 2019, he submitted the $4.57 million winning bid to have lunch with Warren Buffett. He’s also had celebrities like Kobe Bryant at his company events. Most recently, the 30-year-old invested $10 million in GameStop Corp. near the peak of the Reddit-fueled rally.

Although not immediately available for comment, via Twitter he characterized the purchase as a “significant milestone” for his JUST NFT fund.

“I believe more world-class artworks by top-notch artists will be added to the JUST NFT’s catalog in the future,” tweeted Sun. “Stay tuned.”

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