It was an eventful Tuesday at Sotheby’s New York auction studio, where a classic work by master artist Claude Monet was sold for the first time in 25 years. Not only did the painting go for $10 million more than expected, but earlier that morning, three mysterious digital monitors were discovered outside the building, showing what appears to be a new brand of digital artwork.
“Crypto Lilies” stunt sparks curiosity ahead of Monet sale.
It seems that the displays were removed rather quickly, so we only have a few photos to go on. From what we can tell, three large digital screens, each displaying a different artwork, were placed directly outside the front doorway of Sotheby’s York Avenue auction house (for context, artworks are usually displayed for sale inside Sotheby’s, not outside). The unusual discovery comes just hours before a long-awaited, high-profile auction of one of Monet’s famed “Water Lily” works. This series of paintings are among the most celebrated and sought-after of the artist’s body of work.
The stunt seems unrelated to the auction in any official capacity, but with the content of the digital artworks, it appears that it was intended to coincide with the big-name sale, which went $10 million over the estimated price.
The $50 million Monet masterpiece: Coin Le Bassin aux Nymphéas.
The specific canvas going to auction, Coin Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, is a 1918 masterwork of Impressionism by one of the movement’s founders, Claude Monet. It depicts – in the notably abstract and dreamy style of the Impressionists – a colorful corner of the lily pond in his water garden at Giverny. Green, yellow, red, and blue foliage reflected in the lily pond blurs the subject of the work into a haze of saturated color. The November auction marks the first time the painting has been sold in almost 25 years.
The found “Crypto Lilies” are vibrant stylizations of the auctioned painting.
The person or group behind this morning’s surprise find was certainly aware of the day’s significance. In the center of each screen is a multicolored variation of Monet’s Coin Le Bassin aux Nymphéas in a layered digital style with its own unique color scheme – brown and purple, red and green, purple and blue. Though Monet’s characteristic short brush stroke style is absent in the Crypto Lilies, they are unique and interesting in their own way. The images are contained in ornate blue, red, and green frames, each affixed before a repeating background of similarly colored flames. A line of text stretches across the top, reading “Crypto Lilies” and “Deafeye Fine Art” in a rock-n-roll-esque font.
As Coin Le Bassin aux Nymphéas is one of Monet’s “Water Lilies,” “Crypto Lilies” can be read as a title for the vibrant series of works, but who is Deafeye Fine Art? What are they trying to say with this – admittedly bold – act?
The “Crypto Lily” Mystery: is it marketing, or is there a deeper message?
Are the Crypto Lilies and their conspicuous placement some form of guerilla marketing? It would certainly seem an opportune time, but this theory doesn’t exactly hold water.
A thorough Google search for Deafeye Fine Art yields nothing that seems connected to the Crypto Lilies. This doesn’t leave us much to go on. The purpose of the works, the people behind them, and the point of leaving them in front of Sotheby’s – where they were undoubtedly removed post-haste – is not immediately apparent. If the intent was simply to generate questions, it seems that Deafye Fine Art has succeeded in its endeavor.
The digitization and variation of the works could suggest some relation to NFTs. It is also possible that the name “Deafeye Fine Art” is a play on “DeFi,” an abbreviated term for “decentralized finance,” but this has yet to be confirmed, and as of now, there doesn’t seem to be a place to buy Crypto Lilies online.
Will there be more “art stunts” from Deafeye Fine Art?
Though nothing can be said for certain in such mysterious circumstances, it seems highly likely that Deafeye Fine Art will strike the art market again. There are innumerable auctions, exhibitions, famous art fairs, and other events where Deafeye could stealthily set up a new display. Maybe this would give us more to go on, but until then, we’ll be keeping an eye out for more surprises from Deafeye Fine Art.
Read about Coin Le Bassin aux Nymphéas at Sothebys.com.