BLOCK 21 (42.36433° N, -71.26189° E)
The first NFT to be sold by Christie’s
We are excited to welcome the NFT community to Christie's with the exhibition and auction of our first NFT, Robert Alice's Block 21. Seeing this radical new artistic medium placed alongside many masterpieces of the past at our New York galleries, we hope will provoke new conversations around NFT's growing place in art history.
Robert Alice on NFTs
“The NFT space stands at an inflection point of creative experimentation - both artistically and economically. Its next bold step will be to engage the traditional fine art world - of which this is only a matter of time. Not since the Renaissance has a technology so radically reorientated power and control back into the hands of the artist.
This historic sale of this, the first NFT at Christie’s, is my contribution to the rapid maturing of the space"
This NFT changes from day to night in accordance to the timezone and location of its physical counterpart. It’s currently set to New York timezone. Click below to explore alternate states.
BLOCK 21 (42.36433° N, -71.26189° E)
1/1 Unique NFT (Non-Fungible Token) with GMT encoded states.
BTC V0.1.0 Codebase Section: 6,763,009 - 7,085,056
Executed in 2020.
“Time and our linear experience of it sits at the basis of all blockchain technologies. The binary states of this NFT, oscillating between day and night, dependent on the time zone of Block 21, reflect on this structure while also evoking Block 21's codebase in its most minimalist form - day and night; light and dark; 0 and 1.
Now in New York, Block 21 will soon depart and join the first half of Portraits of a Mind around the world. Following October 7, wherever Block 21 is decentralised to, the collector will be able to reset the time zone to their location - bringing into focus Portraits of a Mind as a decentralised network of paintings, and tying the experience of this NFT forever to the physicality of the painting.”
The Physical Work
Block 21 is one part of the largest work of art in Bitcoin's history entitled Portraits of a Mind.
Portraits of a Mind is a global art project to decentralise the founding code behind Bitcoin into 40 fragments. Each of the 12.3 million digits of Satoshi's v0.1.0 has been handpainted, with each painting holding 322,048 digits of Satoshi's original code. The work took over 3 years to make. Decentralised to over 14 cities worldwide from San Francisco to Tokyo, Block 21 is the first publicly available work from the series. Collectors include CZ, Matt Roszak, Jehan Chu and many more. A symbol of decentralisation, Portraits of a Mind is a portrait of Satoshi Nakamoto.
Robert Alice's NFT for Block 21 is one of the first NFTs to encode all global time zones into its layering. Testament to the truly globalised nature of the blockchain community as well as the global footprint of Portraits of a Mind itself, the NFT plays with ideas around time, decentralised networks and binary states, while also exploring the relationship between the digital and physical mediums.
Digital art and NFTs sit on top of the "electronic superhighway" to borrow the phrase from video art pioneer Nam June Paik (1932-2006). Viewable anywhere and at any time, the lights are always on. This perpetual state of visibility and the artwork's dematerialisation into cyberspace is something the connected generation has come to take as standard. The lights do not go out on digital art.
Robert Alice's Block 21 plays with the nature of how we experience digital art at its most core level. Using Async Art's layering protocol, Alice draws the NFT back into the physical world of light and dark in order to bring into greater focus the structures behind how we view digital art. It is in opposition to reality that we understand greater the reality we are in.
Using Async Art's layering protocol, Alice draws the NFT back into the physical world of light and dark in order to bring into greater focus the structures behind how we view digital art.
Composed of 2 parts, the visibility of the NFT is thus bound to the physicality of the painting wherever it is in the world. Our experience of the NFT in the light and dark states allows us to reflect not just on the place of Block 21 in the world, but also the place of the other 39 paintings that constitute Portraits of a Mind, each decentralised around the world. In many ways, this focus on physicality brings into equal focus the physicality of the Bitcoin network itself. The network, itself the strongest computer network in the world, is equally grounded in space and time. Large mining centers, roaring with noise, stand testament to irony that the world's first digital asset is maintained physically.
The binary states of the NFT, minimalist in their dark and light states, suggest equally the binary code that sits not just at the heart of the Bitcoin network, but also Portraits of a Mind. By relating light and dark with 0 and 1's or on and offs, the NFT looks back art historically to the landmark conceptual artwork by Martin Creed (UK, b.1968) titled, Work No. 227: The lights going on and off (2000). In this iconic turn of the century work (Fig. 1), Creed emptied a gallery except for its lights and then set them to be timed on and off in five minute rotations. Plunging the gallery and its viewers into darkness for five minutes, every five minutes, the viewers came to appreciate light as the core ingredient of the art experience as well as the physicality of themselves in space and time.
The work is closely mirrored by another conceptual art project, highly influential to Alice, the Date Paintings by On Kawara. For over 30 years, On Kawara rose each day and painted the date of the day on a pre-formatted painting. The work, stretching to many thousands of dates over 30 years, became an archive of time itself and a memorialisation of each day as important as the next. A constant traveller, On Kawara would paint the date in the format of the country he was in (Fig. 2). The work therefore became not just an index of time but an index of his place in the world. Portraits of a Mind, two parts painting and NFT, draws these conceptual practices into the decentralised age.