The latest edition of Sotheby’s NFT sale, Natively Digital, was expected to be a success, but instead, it has highlighted the ongoing issue of inclusivity in the digital art world.
The “Natively Digital: Glitch-ism” sale featured works from prominent glitch artists who embrace distortion and pixelation aesthetics. Scheduled for bidding from March 24–31, the event was disrupted when artist Patrick Amadon withdrew his work, citing the lack of female-identifying artists in the sale. Within hours, Sotheby’s halted the auction and vowed to rethink and relaunch it.
Amadon’s decision was prompted by a tweet from artist Oona, who questioned how a major auction house could curate a glitch art show without including a single female artist. This all-male auction had already been facing criticism online, albeit outside the public eye.
The grievances extend beyond the lack of diversity in the sale. Prominent glitch artist Dawnia Darkstone had been asked to analyze the glitch art scene by the show’s curator, Davis Brown, but was not compensated or included in the event. Moreover, Dutch art theorist and glitch artist Rosa Menkman had her work used without permission in the sale’s promotional material, and she was not invited to contribute to the sale.
“The all-male glitch art exhibition sponsored by Sotheby’s exemplifies the ongoing inequality present in the art world,” Oona stated to Artnet News. “Artwork by non-male artists is habitually undervalued and underrepresented. If we fail to recognize and tackle this issue, it will only continue to deteriorate.”
Following the pressure exerted by Oona, Stellabelle, Darkstone, and other artists, Sotheby’s has committed to “address the inequality in representation within the sale and will recommence with a more balanced and diverse selection of artists at a future date.” As part of this endeavor, an exhibition and panel discussion will take place at NFT.NYC, running from April 12–14, focusing on underrepresented communities of glitch artists.
While Amadon valued Sotheby’s swift response and considered the oversight a “genuine mistake,” he pointed out that none of the other artists in the exhibition had joined his call and emphasized the significance of equitable representation during the early stages of the industry’s growth.
“Often, the price becomes the primary indicator, but it doesn’t provide a truthful evaluation of quality or significance,” Amadon shared with Artnet News. “This perpetuates a cycle that benefits artists and collectors with privilege and opportunity. Platforms must improve their ability to identify this issue and assume greater responsibility.”
In the updated “Glitch-ism” sale, Amadon anticipates the inclusion of works by artists such as Empress Trash, Stella Particula, Ina Vare, Epic Thundercat, Dawnia Darkstone, Iteration, and wondermundo.
This marks the second time in just a few weeks that Amadon has gained attention for the social aspects of his art. During Hong Kong Art Week, his moving image piece, No Rioters, was taken down from a massive LED billboard in the Causeway Bay shopping district after it was discovered that the artwork displayed the names of imprisoned Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.
Sotheby’s has not provided a specific date for the relaunch of “Glitch-ism.”