The creator of the wildly popular Nyan Cat GIF decided to celebrate its 10-year anniversary by selling a digital asset known as an NFT—a non-fungible token—at auction. The sale, hosted by the new NFT marketplace Foundation, pulled in a whopping 300ETH—that’s for the blockchain called Ethereum—or the USD equivalent of roughly $561,000.
Hypebeast, which first reported the sale, noted that the price shot up in the final 30 minutes of bidding from a starting point of just 15ETH (roughly $18,000). The artist, Chris Torres, tweeted, “Just opened up the flood gates to the future of meme economy in the Crypto universe, no big deal.”
He added: “But seriously, thanks for believing in Nyan Cat all these years. I hope this inspires future artists to get into the #NFT universe so they can get proper recognition for their work.”
So what exactly is Nyan Cat? The pixelated gray cat is a throwback to 1980s video game characters like Pac-Man or Atari. It flies in a straight line through an equally dated-looking starry night backdrop, a stream of rainbow colors trailing behind. All of this is set to a relentlessly chirpy techno soundtrack. The three-minute-plus video uploaded to YouTube in 2011 spawned dozens of memes after, including a 10-hour video of Nyan Cat on repeat, and one featuring 50 different cat memes that all riff on the original cat. Nevertheless, the NFT for the work is unique, Torres noted.
Torres did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Christie’s recently announced the sale of its first-ever purely digital artwork at auction: Everydays—The First 5000 Days by Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the name Beeple. It will be offered in a standalone online sale aimed at new and younger collectors.
Like Torres’s Nyan Cat, Beeple’s work carries an NFT, a unique digital token encrypted with the artist’s signature and individually identified on a blockchain, effectively verifying the rightful owner and authenticity of the creation. In December, the first large-scale auction of Beeple’s art grossed $3.5 million in a single weekend, according to Esquire, which offers newbies a good in-depth primer on how NFTs work.
For the 10th anniversary of his GIF, Torres said he created a remastered version of the original, which includes a series of tweaks. For instance, a star that would appear randomly in the original 12-frame animation reportedly irked him, so he removed it for the remastered edition.
As the bidding neared its end, Torres and a representative for Foundation watched the action on a Twitch video, which was shared to Twitter. “I love cats and I love bright colors,” Torres said as he talked about the “LOL Comics” series of stick figure characters he’s been producing for the past 20 years.
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