Sotheby's auction sets new world record for $11.8M CryptoPunk sale

“NFTs are dead,” said the previous owner of the COVID Alien artwork once the auction closed.

Luxury auction house Sotheby’s made waves on social media on Thursday following the sale of one rare CryptoPunk.

In a tweet from Sotheby’s, the auction said CryptoPunk #7523 — also known as “COVID Alien” — sold in its London salesroom for roughly $11.8 million. According to the auction house, this sale represents a new world record for a single CryptoPunk artwork.

CryptoPunks, which predate the bulk of the nonfungible token (NFT) craze in 2021, are often small, pixelated depictions of people, apes, zombies and aliens. Sotheby’s announced the sale of the COVID Alien in late May as a “special, standalone” auction. The artwork features an alien wearing a face mask.

On-chain data shows that someone purchased the CryptoPunk for 8 Ether (ETH) in a public sale in 2017 — a fraction of the sale price today. However, last month New York-based auction house Christie’s sold nine CryptoPunks for almost $17 million, implying there is still strong interest from many buyers for these pieces.

“Punks were designed as pseudonymous portraits, masks for those crypto pioneers that value the idea of privacy in the modern age,” said Sotheby’s in an overview of the auction. “Avatars, portraits or masks, they stand as semiotic reference points to a specific internet crypto native identity that now spreads itself across social networks — particularly Twitter. More is said by a Punk as a profile picture than a portrait of the individual behind the account.”

Related: Sotheby’s moves $10 million CryptoPunk to solo auction event

The NFT collector “Sillytuna,” who owned the COVID Alien prior to the sale, previously told Cointelegraph that he acquired the digital collectible in an over-the-counter deal. He took to Twitter immediately after the sale to announce that “NFTs are DEAD” and hinted he may have already used some of the funds to make another artwork purchase.

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