In a groundbreaking move, Sotheby’s is set to implement ‘Dutch auctions’ for the first time. This innovative auction format will debut with a digital art sale celebrating the pioneering artist Vera Molnár. The sale, titled “Themes and Variations,” is part of Sotheby’s new Gen Art Program, which is powered by the Art Blocks Engine, a leading platform for generative art.
“Technology has been central to art history for centuries,” says Molnár, whose work has long explored the intersection of art and technology. From the invention of oil painting to today’s digital art, technology has consistently shaped artistic expression. Molnár’s collaboration with Sotheby’s and Art Blocks represents a culmination of her decades-long exploration of how systems and computers can generate artistic outputs.
The sale, scheduled for July 26, will be fully on-chain through Sotheby’s Metaverse. It represents Molnár’s largest on-chain generative art project to date, featuring an exclusive series of 500 unique artworks that expand upon her early explorations of algorithmic art beginning in the 1960s.
The integration of the Art Blocks Engine also marks the debut of Sotheby’s Gen Art Program, a significant new channel for generative artists to bring primary market works to sale. The program will spotlight 2-3 artists annually with exclusive sales of long-form generative art.
The Dutch auction format, a first for Sotheby’s, has been the preferred sale format for Art Blocks since its launch in 2021. Unlike traditional auctions where bidders vie for a work of art by placing increasing bids, Dutch auctions start at a fixed initial price and decrease at set increments until the first bid is placed.
“Vera Molnár is an undisputed legend of generative art,” says Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s Head of Digital Art & NFTs. “Her decades of experimentation with the form have paved the way for what we know of today as algorithm-based digital art.”
Themes and Variations is a long-form algorithmic system that operates on three fundamental principles: letter forms, color, and composition. The resulting collection of 500 unique generative artworks expresses Molnár’s affinity for embracing disorder and her seamless integration of letters as pure abstract forms.
“All these variations around letters resonate in me like music,” says Molnár. “That’s why I titled the project ‘Theme and Variations’ with the letters N, F, and T for my first and only long-form generative art project.”