Max Stealth would be the first to admit that he arrived at digital art collecting late. But while he’d only begun building his collection in earnest in 2020, his appetite as a collector and investor meant he’s swiftly amassed a store of NFT artworks numbering some 4,500, while smashing some records along the way. And his timing has been, well, downright fateful.
On September 14 — months after Beeple set an auction record for digital art and months into NFTs’ continued presence in the art world — Sotheby’s launched the live sale, Inside the World of MaxStealth: A Timeless Collection. The auction house’s first single-owner NFT sale arrayed selections from the pseudonymous collector’s hoard, not limited to works by Pak, Beeple, 3LAU, Trevor Jones, Hackatao, and XCOPY, which have come to define his instincts. In his own words, the auction “gave me an opportunity to tell a story.”
The Australian-based Max has spent some three decades in the technology industry as consultant and entrepreneur, where he built up enough capital, he says, “to deploy.” NFTs may have represented an investment opportunity, but Max is not without a collector’s eye.
“I’ve been collecting all my life,” he tells Jing Culture & Crypto, noting his adventures in accumulating stamps, glass art, and movie posters throughout his lifetime. “There’s a niche there,” he adds of digital art. “I look at XCOPY or Hackatao, and I go, ‘That’s different and edgy, and they’re occupying quite specific niches.’ And I liked the work.”
Two years in, there’s every sign that the collector is really only just getting started. “Hackatao, Pak, and XCOPY were some of the originals,” he emphasizes, “but there are other ones that are going to be discovered.” But before that, Max expands below on what’s whetting his investment and collecting impulses in this new era of digital collecting.
What started your digital art collection?
I don’t remember the first piece I collected because I’ve done, like, 35,000 transactions in under two years — I was a bit of a maniac. Because from a technology perspective, everything will become a NFT. Obviously, we have regulation and legislation coming around — the biggest thing is probably the White House paper that came out a couple of days ago. We exist in a very volatile environment, which is why if you look at altcoins and then you look at art, no one’s gonna legislate against art, right? Now that we’ve got art in this new space, I thought this might be the best investment space at the moment on the planet. So I jumped in with everything.
For you, where does the value of digital art lie?
In this space, everything is quite binary: you either hit a massive home run or zero. It was about putting bets down and diversifying. At this point in time, art probably shouldn’t be sold because the market is still so small and it’s a down market. You take 10 years and if you have two bidders who understand the work, that’s all you need. Art will be valued by the people who want to pay for it.
As an investor, how do you approach the purchase of a NFT artwork?
I think you need a set of investing principles. You know, supply and demand, and scarcity — a new thing or the first time it’s ever happened or a one-to-one. But I’ve also realized that in this space, what I buy, 95 percent of it will probably be worthless in time. And that’s okay, because 25 artists got to quit their jobs because of what I did and that changed their lives. That’s what art should be. This is how the narrative starts to get defined over years and years and years.
How do you see the mechanism of NFTs changing the relationship between artist and collector?
Art’s been around for 5,000 years, but this is the first time that it’s being governed by a smart contract. Suddenly, the artist and the collector have come together in a way where we are actually partners. That’s allowed us to say, “Well, how do we explore this and take it further?” There is that unique opportunity to have an influence and be heard, and more than anything, to become friends with the artists. I think that’s pretty unique in 5,000 years of art — to have a new relationship with artists.
In a similar vein, what can you share about your experiences in the NFT collecting community?
I’ve been schooled a lot. I’m a member of Dark Horse DAO, which came out of Flamingo DAO. I’ve only been in the space for just about two years, and though I’ve done DeFi and yield farming and domain names, I’ve learned across a breadth. The people I’ve met are incredible. I think the OG culture there was so secretive, but it was pretty obvious that that’s going to leach out. But I had the opportunity by jumping in to directly meet these people.
I guess the question is what I’m going to do in the space, and I’m actually not going to do anything in the space because I’m too late. I just prefer meeting friends there. I came from a Web2 background and Max Stealth is really the bridge between Web2 and Web3.