Going, going, gone: First Israeli NFT art heads to auction block

Family-owned auction house Tiroche dips toe into metaverse of digital creations

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, created by Israeli artist Shirley Shor, will be auctioned at Herzliya Pituah auction house Tiroche on May 30, 2022 (Courtesy Tiroche)
An NFT, or non-fungible token, created by Israeli artist Shirley Shor, will be auctioned at Herzliya Pituah auction house Tiroche on May 30, 2022 (Courtesy Tiroche)

The Tiroche family has auctioned off Chagalls and Gutmans, Yitzhak Rabin’s Rolex and Ariel Sharon’s cowboy boots (gifted to him by George Bush) from its auctioneer block in Herzliya Pituah.

But Monday’s sale of four NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, created by Israeli artists, is a first, and one the family-owned auction house has considered for some time.

“We started thinking about it, but we didn’t want to enter something we didn’t totally understand,” said Amitai Hazan Tiroche, who runs the auction house with his father, Dov Hazan. (Hazan is his father’s name, Tiroche is his mother’s).

NFTs are a blockchain-based commodity that has whipped the art world into a buying frenzy. The technology offers a form of certificate of authenticity to the digital creations, allowing individual ownership of something that could otherwise be replicated endlessly.

NFTs can also be pricey.

Artist Damien Hirst’s NFT experiment “The Currency,” which asks buyers to choose between a digital token and IRL (in real life) art, grossed $18 million from the initial sale and Hirst collects an additional five percent of resale proceeds as the NFTs are traded online.

The four Israeli artists whose NFT works will go on the Tiroche auction block are street artist Tag who offers a particular focus on technology and social media; Shira Barzilay, better known online as Koketit, known for her coquettish line drawings often focused on the female figure and female empowerment; video artist Shirley Shor; and violinist Moran Victoria Sabag, who combines her music and art.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, created by Israeli artist Moran Victoria Sabag, will be auctioned at Herzliya Pituach auction house Tiroche on May 30, 2022 (Courtesy Tiroche)

The works of Tag, Shor and Sabag are valued at $3,000 to $6,000, while the work of the better-known Koketit is in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, said Tiroche.

The prices are lower than NFT prices abroad, mostly because the Israeli NFT artists aren’t as well-known, he said.

“Auction does work on demand, and people are testing the market,” said Tiroche. “We have no idea what it will be like.”

Over the course of the last year, various entrepreneurs and companies reached out to Tiroche, hoping to work with the auction house on NFT sales.

They were cautious, said Tiroche, given that there’s not much of a track record for anyone dealing in this newer art field.

“Every time NFT would come up, my father would say, ‘I don’t understand it, talk to my son, it’s not for me,'” said Tiroche, who is 35. “There’s a lot more interest from people under 30. And often those who are over 50 say, ‘Don’t talk to me about it.'”

From the Bored Ape Yacht Club Art Instagram account (Bored Ape Yacht Club Art screen shot)

That said, he believes it’s here to stay, pointing to fashion brands Prada, Louis Vuitton and Nike working with digital artists to create NFTs.

“Instead of an expensive watch, an NFT is another way to show off what you have — and it costs half a million dollars,” said Tiroche. “The world is changing and people will be in the metaverse to get the things they want.”

Israeli singer Omer Adam recently told Twitter followers that he purchased a token of the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection, which features social media profile pictures of cartoon apes that are generated by an algorithm.

Some NFT buyers have money to invest, said Tiroche, particularly if they’re investing in cryptocurrency.

“You can’t buy a house or car with cryptocurrency. You’re limited with what you can do,” he said.

An NFT, or non-fungible token, created by Israeli artist Tag, will be auctioned at Herzliya Pituah auction house Tiroche on May 30, 2022 (Courtesy Tiroche)

The NFT collectors are younger than the typical art buyers, said Tiroche, who expects to see the children of his major collectors coming for the first time to see the contemporary art he has to show.

“When we decided to do this, it happened very quickly, but it was very important to us that we wouldn’t do it just for the sake of getting it done,” he said. “Part of the benefit of NFTs is the medium, and that it has something to say.”

The Tiroche NFT auction will take place Monday, May 30, at 8 p.m. at the Tiroche auction house.

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