SAUDI ARABIA: Sotheby’s and the Visual Arts Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture are partnering to launch a digital arts forum in the Kingdom – a first of its kind in the Middle East. Charting the history of NFTs, from their inception seven years ago until today, the dedicated talks programme will bring together the pioneering artists, collectors and curators that are defining the space. Over the course of three days, attendees will have the opportunity to join a series of talks by experts in art, blockchain technology and NFTs. Sotheby’s will also showcase a selection of cutting-edge NFTs and host daily workshops as part of the Diriyah Biennale’s public program.

The forum will take place in the midst of Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, which runs until 11 March and showcases some of the world’s leading artists. Serving as a platform for global dialogue and exchange, the Biennale brings together Saudi and international artists in a celebration of contemporary culture, and is an accessible and engaging platform for all.

Dina Amin, Chief Executive Officer, Visual Arts Commission at Ministry of Culture: “Digital Art provides emerging and established art practitioners and collectors with new ways to experience, collect and create with art peers around the world. As the Kingdom’s visual arts sector continues to rapidly flourish, we’re excited to partner with leading global experts such as Sotheby’s to bring this unique opportunity to engage with NFTs and digital art in Riyadh.”

Edward Gibbs, Chairman, Sotheby’s Middle East & India: “Sotheby’s is proud to present the first Digital Arts Forum in Saudi Arabia in partnership with the Ministry of Culture. This educational focus on NFTs is a natural next step in Sotheby’s strong history of supporting innovative cultural programmes and is testament to our longstanding commitment to Saudi Arabia echoing the Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030.”

Sebastian Fahey, Managing Director of Sotheby's EMEA: “The world of digital art is an ever-evolving space, and we are excited to be bringing the international NFT community to KSA – an opportunity for the next generation of collectors to explore the new NFT technology and the great innovations that are being made, all of which starts with education.”

Aya Al-Bakree, Chief Executive Officer, Diriyah Biennale Foundation: “We are delighted to be hosting this first of its kind project at the Diriyah Biennale as a partner of the Visual Arts Commission and Sotheby’s.  The Biennale is a hub of arts engagement and learning which inspires creative dialogue across cultures while developing the local ecosystem. This collaboration will, as part of our public program, lead to burgeoning local interest in NFTs and develop best practice in the field with access to leading voices.”

Programme of Events

Friday 25 February: Introduction to the NFT and related artistic movements in the space.

Saturday 26 February: The new NFT ecosystem forming and how this new market is interacting with the traditional art market.

Sunday 27 February: Buying habits and trends and a look at the future for NFTs, with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia.

The showcase will be accompanied by daily workshops during the day focusing on how to explore the metaverse, set up a self-hosted wallet, purchasing and selling an NFT.

Visitors can leave with a personalised POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol), a digital collectible token in the form of an NFT that records their attendance on the blockchain.

Images of NFT works and biographies of the panelists can be found here.

The talks will be livestreamed here.

The forum will be open from 11am to 11pm daily (excluding the opening day, 25 Friday, when it will open at 5pm).

Sotheby’s & Digital Art

“NFTs are a great technological innovation that enable digital artists to sell and market their work in their native states. At their core, they allow us to expand our reach and welcome a new audience to the collecting community. This conference is the perfect platform to explore these innovations in Saudi Arabia, continuing this cultural conversation right on the doorsteps of collectors in the region.”

Michael Bouhanna, Co-Head of Digital Art Sales, Sotheby's

Over the course of the last year, Sotheby’s – and the art world at large – witnessed a meteoric rise in NFTs. Since its debut auction in April 2021, Sotheby’s sales in this category have achieved approximately $100 million for 100 NFTs, setting multiple benchmarks along the way, including records for a single CryptoPunk ($11.8 million) and single Bored Ape ($3.4 million).

In June 2021, Sotheby’s also launched a digital replica of its New Bond Street Headquarters in London at a prime location in Decentraland’s Voltaire Art District, with five spaces inside to exhibit both purely digital artworks or digital replicas of physical works from our sales. Most recently, Sandro Botticelli’s The Man of Sorrows transformed one of Sotheby’s virtual galleries into a chapel interior ahead of its auction as part of ‘Master Paintings’ at Sotheby’s New York.

Sotheby’s also became the first auction house, and one of the only organisations in the world, to create its own platform dedicated to NFTs, with the launch of Sotheby’s Metaverse. Dedicated Twitter and discord channels were established to coincide, providing a space for the NFT and crypto communities to engage. 

A Beginner’s Guide to NFTs

An NFT can be thought of as a certificate that only exists once, is unique, immutable and cannot be interchanged. When a collector buys an NFT, they are buying a token (or certificate) and thus the singular digital artwork or photograph linked to it. The purchase of the NFT is registered on the blockchain (a decentralized database) and provides a permanent record of that purchase and proof of ownership. Payment is usually made in cryptocurrency, which Sotheby’s accepts on designated lots.

The opening times for the exhibition are from 5:00pm to 11:00pm on Friday, and 11:00am to 11:00pm on the remaining days.

For more information on the speakers and artists, and to register your attendance, go to:


For media enquiries, please contact:
Melica Khansari
Senior Press Officer, Sotheby’s 

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