Elon Musk on Wednesday briefly switched his Twitter profile picture to a $24.4 million NFT, before being asked by the co-head of Sotheby’s digital art division to take the image down.
Musk, 50, appeared to have taken a screenshot of a collage of an image entitled ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’, which sold at auction in September.
The NFT features 107 images of cartoon apes, and was bought by an unknown bidder.
NFTs are bitcoin-like digital tokens that act like a certificate of ownership, and live on a blockchain.
Musk’s use of the image was noticed by Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s.
‘@elonmusk, as much I admire your work I’d like you to remove your pfp that I created for our Sotheby’s sale,’ Bouhanna tweeted.
‘Or you credit me.
‘Happy to send you the original file minted with the buyer approval.’
Michael Bouhanna, the co-head of digital art at Sotheby’s, noticed on Wednesday morning that Musk has screenshotted his work
Half an hour later, Musk appeared to reply to Bouhanna, mocking the NFT community
The image Musk used was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in September for $24.4 million
Musk did not reply directly, but instead tweeted half an hour later: ‘I dunno … seems kinda fungible.’
Several hours later, the ape image was gone, replaced with a photo of a child playing with a rocket.
Musk was thought by some to be mocking the NFT industry, one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the market for the digital art had ‘collapsed’, with sales down 92 percent from its September peak.
By Wednesday afternoon, Musk had switched his profile photo, and instead of the NFT featured a child playing with a rocket
The paper cited data from website NonFungible, which reported that sales fell to a daily average of about 19,000 this week – compared to about 225,000 in September.
The number of active wallets in the NFT market fell 88 percent to about 14,000 last week from a high of 119,000 in November.
There have been significant signs of a drop in interest.
An NFT of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold in March 2021 for $2.9 million to Sina Estavi, the chief executive of Malaysia-based blockchain company Bridge Oracle.
Estavi put the NFT up for auction earlier this year, but did not receive any bids above $14,000, so cancelled the sale.
In April, a Snoop Dog curated NFT, titled ‘Doggy #4292,’ was sold for $32,000 worth of the cryptocurrency ether.
The NFT, an image of a green astronaut standing on what looks like a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, is now up for auction, with an asking price of $25.5 million but the highest current bid is $210.
The rapper – a proud owner of a Bored Ape NFT, which he has as his Twitter profile pic, and which he has worn on a sweatshirt on TV – tweeted his support of Musk’s interest in the trades.
‘Ay @elonmusk! Let’s take our Apes 2 the moon. higher n higher. LFG!!!’ he tweeted.
Are NFTs over? Bored Ape owners hope not
NFTs – Non-fungible Tokens – are digital downloads which are traded; often art, but they can be works of music or any unique creation.
Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work.
Buyers usually get limited rights to display the digital artwork they represent, but many see the purchase as a bragging right and an asset to be traded.
In February 2021, Christie’s sold an NFT by Beeple, announcing the sale as the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house.
The NFT, ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, went for $69 million – making Beeple one of the top three most-valuable living artists.
By the end of 2021, $25 billion had been spent on NFTs.
In February 2022, Julian Assange and Pak’s Clock NFT became the second-most expensive single NFT ever sold when it went for $58 million.
The NFT depicts a timer that counts the number of days Assange has spent in prison.
Bored Ape launched in April 2021, with their designs costing around $190.
Now they are a status symbol: Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Eminem and footballer Neyman Jr. all use theirs as a Twitter photo, and other famous owners include Jimmy Fallon, Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber.
The company behind Bored Ape, Yuga Labs, brands ownership of one of their NFTs like membership of a club, and parties and meet-ups for those who can prove ownership – some of the events online, and some at glitzy in-person gatherings .
On May 1 the company launched a new spinoff called Otherside – selling 55,000 plots of digital land for the total equivalent of $320 million, making it possibly the largest mint of an NFT project to date.
Otherside is a metaverse gaming platform in which users’ NFTs could be playable characters.
Elon Musk is pictured on Monday at the Met Gala, with his mother Maye
Earlier on Wednesday, a British parliamentary committee scrutinizing online safety legislation invited Musk to discuss his plans to buy Twitter and the changes he’s proposing for the social media platform.
Parliament’s digital committee asked the Tesla CEO on Wednesday to give evidence about his proposals ‘in more depth.’
Musk thanked the committee for their invitation but declined, saying it was too early to give an answer.
‘I am honored and thank the Parliament for their invitation, but it would be premature at this time to accept, given that there has not yet been a shareholder vote’ to approve the deal, he said in an email to The Associated Press.
The committee said it is interested in Musk’s plans, especially his intention to roll out verification for all users, which echoes its own recommendations to the UK government.
Musk has said he wants Twitter to ‘authenticate all humans,’ an ambiguous proposal that could be related to his desire to rid the website of automated spam accounts.
The UK government’s online safety bill, which is being examined by lawmakers in Parliament, would give regulators wide-ranging powers to crack down on digital and social media companies.
Among the bill’s measures aimed at combating online abuse is a requirement for the biggest platforms to give users the option to verify their identity and the choice not to interact with unverified users.
It’s not the first time the committee has invited a tech boss to testify.
In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined an invitation to answer questions as part of its investigation into fake news.