Bitcoin-Based Digital Art Image 'Genesis Cat' Sells for $254K in Sotheby's Auction

The sale of the digital image from the Taproot Wizards project came as popularity surges for the NFT-like creations minted atop the Bitcoin blockchain's Ordinals protocol. All in, some 19 lots sold by Sotheby's raked in a combined $1.1 million.

AccessTimeIconJan 22, 2024 at 8:32 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 8:18 p.m. UTC

"Genesis Cat," a digital art image minted atop the Bitcoin blockchain's Ordinals protocol by the Taproot Wizards team, has sold for $254,000 in a Sotheby's auction.

The image was a special edition 1-of-1 piece by the Taproot Wizards artist Francisco "FAR" Alarcon, featured as part of a broader sale of Ordinals inscriptions by Sotheby's. The auction started on Jan. 12 and concluded on Monday.

The sale price for Genesis Cat was more than 12 times the estimated $15,000 to $20,000 for the lot, and comes after Sotheby's last month sold three pixelated images from the "BitcoinShrooms" collection for a combined $450,000.

The cat image was sold as part of the "Ordinals Curated Sale," consisting of 19 lots from 11 different artists. Collectively they raked in about $1.1 million, Sotheby's spokesman Derek Parsons told CoinDesk in an email.

Lot 17 from the Sotheby's auction, "Black Rare Sat 20,159,999,999,999," pulled in $165,100, according to Parsons, which he said he understood was a record for a so-called "Rare Satoshi," which are seen as having unique features that make them more highly sought-after.

The eye-popping numbers for these Ordinals inscriptions – sometimes referred to as "NFTs on Bitcoin" – has drawn comparisons to the NFT frenzy that consumed the Ethereum blockchain a few years ago. Transactions related to Ordinals have contributed to congestion on the Bitcoin blockchain while drawing the ire of some purists who would like to see the world's largest blockchain's bandwidth kept clear for financial payments.

According to the Sotheby's description of the auction lot for the Genesis Cat image, Alarcon is "an artist and engineer exploring the intersection of visual arts and technology."

"His research delves into the material history of computer-generated graphics, examining digital imaging from historical and conceptual perspectives," said Sotheby's. "He investigates computer simulations and visualizations, focusing on their impact on our understanding of the physical world through film, video games, and virtual worlds."

The Genesis Cat piece was the anchor of a series of 3,333 "Quantum Cats" minted by Taproot Wizards, in its first sale since the Ordinals "NFTs on Bitcoin" project raised $7.5 million last year from investors.

The Quantum Cats collection is designed to honor a Bitcoin improvement proposal known as OP_CAT, according to a press release from Taproot Wizards.

Dan Held, chief marketing officer for Taproot Wizards, told CoinDesk that the price for Genesis Cat is the amount that will be paid back to the project, including the artist, who was a co-founder. The Sotheby's fee is charged on top of the winning bid price, according to Held.


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Bradley Keoun

Bradley Keoun is the managing editor of CoinDesk's Tech & Protocols team. He owns less than $1,000 each of several cryptocurrencies.