How did Noah Davis go from running Christie’s Beeple Sale to joining the NFT powerhouse Yuga Labs?

Noah Davis has already secured his place in art history as the individual who made Beeple’s $69 million sale at Christie’s in February 2021 possible—the occasion that officially launched NFTs. He took a new job at Yuga Labs last month and is now the brand lead for the recently acquired collectible CryptoPunks. Yuga Labs is the firm that develops and produces NFT collectibles like Bored Ape Yacht Club. With 7 of the top 10 selling NFTs being CryptoPunks, Davis’s new position is exciting and challenging.

The cryptocurrency price is in a bear market, and Yuga Labs is suing conceptual artist Ryder Ripps for trademark infringement in front of many people. However, Davis seems unfazed, saying, “Web3 is wonderful for not just artists, but for humanity in general.” After a brief Zoom conversation, it becomes clear why this straightforward and idealistic 33-year-old, who also has serious financial insight and is an artist himself, is the best candidate for the job.

Backstory of Davis

Before joining Yuga Labs, Davis worked exclusively in the traditional art sector. Before working for Christie’s in 2017, he interned in Gagosian’s publishing division. After moving up the corporate ladder to become a specialist, he managed the online sales division there. Over four years, he added, “I was selling post-war modern art exclusively online—a sector I grew from a kind of backwater or a bargain-bin fire-sale site to a very steady moneymaker.”

In his capacity as the “online sales guy,” Davis was also tasked with evaluating the Beeple NFT when it was presented to him by Megan Doyle, a coworker, and presenting the idea to the 300-year-old auction house. But for him, the epiphany regarding NFTs didn’t come until much later. When “I comprehended what it is that NFTs did and got over what they are,” he claimed, everything changed.

By this, Davis means that he could see past the aesthetics of most NFTs—a roadblock that many individuals in the traditional art industry encounter—to the decentralized technology’s potential. 

The Contract

He referred to the fact that they can serve as a conditional contract, a collective recordkeeper, a keepsake, an event pass, and more when he said, “Once I got past what the NFT is and into what it does, which is give currency to an ephemeral good, I learned that digital goods are not the only use case for NFTs.” “In essence, they are hyper-dynamic objects that lack objecthood. That was the selling point, he remarked. He also believed that NFTs and blockchain resonated with his ideals in a manner that the conventional art scene did not after learning more about decentralization.

Noah Davis’s Thoughts

Noah Davis is open about his dislike of the conventional art scene. The “best living artist,” David Hammons, is quoted as saying: “The art audience is the worst audience in the world.” He nodded in agreement. It’s overly intelligent, conservative, subject to criticism, difficult to understand, and never fun!

Davis remarked, “That is scathing, but I think entirely bang on.” “This is a universe that functions through its own mysterious pacts and hidden rituals; it has its own cabals within cabals. That kind of organization doesn’t speak to me at all.

Even with the $69 million Beeple sale, Davis claimed that his own collection, Howlerz, brought in more money than he did during his five years at Christie’s. It was really, really empowering. It had a huge impact on me. Making Howlerz, 2 5K sets (with a third on the way) of wolf heads inspired by tattoos and cartoons and created by Davis using a randomizing algorithm “absolutely altered my life,” he claimed.

Big step for Noah Davis

Howlerz not only gave Noah Davis financial independence but also allowed him to create his own NFT community, which strengthened his faith in the inherent goodness of Web3 and gave him the self-assurance to identify as an artist for the first time openly.

What about the Punks, though? What steps will Davis take to maintain or improve the NFT brands with the highest total value? And how did they initially come to be so priceless? Regarding the last issue, Davis said, “Provenance is something that is incredibly crucial to comprehend here. Additionally, it is a huge matter that CryptoPunks was born in 2017 onto the blockchain. But he made it clear that “early does not always equal elite.”

Noah Davis’s thoughts on Cryptopunks

Other 2017 NFTs, like Crypto Kitties and Curio Cards, did not have the same dramatic trajectory as CryptoPunks. According to Davis, punks are so precious and have such a long shelf life, which is due to their society’s nature. 

It’s astounding to think that claimants who joined CryptoPunks in the past are still active members and have held onto their assets from zero—literally, virtually zero—to where they are now. That is especially true when you consider that the most expensive Punk, as of this writing, costs $128,961.53, and the highest-selling Punk, which sold for $23.7 million in February 2022.

Davis’s responsibilities at Yuga Labs

As a brand lead, Davis’s first significant action will be to oversee the distribution of licensing rights to CryptoPunk owners that correspond to those of Bored Ape Yacht Club owners. These rights include the right to use the CryptoPunk image a holder has to produce new intellectual property (IP), provided that it does not contain hate speech or be used unlawfully.

An illustration of this in action is the current partnership between Tiffany & Co. and CryptoPunk owners to make unique Punk pendants. These necklaces include at least 30 jewels apiece and sell for the reasonable price of 30 Ethereum, which is equivalent to $51,000. A distinguishing feature of Web3 and a significant change from how businesses have traditionally operated is the empowerment of NFT holders to serve as creative, entrepreneurial brand ambassadors as opposed to willfully controlling a brand’s context from the top down.

Because there was a financial incentive to do so, brands historically have been very aggressive in defending such borders, but Davis noted that with the advent of Web3, things are shifting culturally. “The emphasis is far more on individualism and fostering creativity than suppressing it. It has to do with the permissionless functionality of blockchain technology and how trustless it is by nature. Putting obstacles in the way of creative people’s endeavors feels wrong.

Noah Davis’s thoughts on Crypto Market

When asked if he ever had any qualms about leaving the conventional art scene and in light of the current crypto winter and impending litigation, Noah Davis responded, “I had no doubts, actually. Although there is no safe harbor in the crypto world, Yuga Labs is the company I would choose if I were sailing in turbulent waters.

He continued, “It will be what it will be with the lawsuit. There has clearly been tension between myself and the old establishment due to Beeple’s entry. In Beeple’s earlier work, some very troubling material was called out by traditional media, and I think deservedly so. There was a discourse surrounding it that, in my opinion, was ultimately beneficial for the space. Beeple now looks back on that troubling work with a shudder or two. Yes, a deep quake. However, it is true that this area is still very much in its infancy and experiencing growing pains.

There is little doubt that Davis would like to be at the epicenter of these growing pains, shaping the better NFT future he so fiercely believes in.

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