Zoë Roth, the woman whose picture was central to the 2005 Disaster Girl meme, has sold the original photo for $473,000 – the latest addition to the cryptocurrency-linked, digital image NFT craze that is sweeping through the art market.
The image was taken of Roth, then aged four, by her father in front of a burning house in Mebane, North Carolina. Firefighters had intentionally set the blaze as a controlled fire.
Roth, now aged 21 and a university student, sold the image through Ben Lashes, an NFT, or non-fungible token, entrepreneur who has racked up about $2m in sales for sales including Nyan Cat, Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat, Doge, Success Kid and David After Dentist.
Roth, who says she plans to use the proceeds to pay off her student loans and donate additional money to charity, told the New York Times: “The internet is big. Whether you’re having a good experience or a bad experience, you kind of just have to make the most of it.”
She told the Raleigh News & Observer: “Nobody who is a meme tried to do that, it just ended up that way. Is it luck? Is it fate? I have no idea. But I will take it.”
The 17 April sale price, which translates to 180 Ethereum, was reached almost two months after Christie’s in New York auctioned a jpg digital file made by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, for $69.3m with fees.
The sale price placed Winkelmann in the same price range as reknowned traditional artists like JMW Turner, Georges Seurat and Francisco Goya, leading critics to note that the market had finally been able to divorce itself from traditional notions of art-values entirely.
Sales of NFTs since then have been less successful as buyers intuit that the image itself is not the purpose, rather the underlying or attached cryptocurrency, many of which are currently surging in frothy market for novel currency investment vehicles.
The buyer of Roth’s image, a collector simply known as 3FMusic, is believed to be Farzin Fardin Fard, chief executive of a Dubai-based music production company.
In a statement to Gizmodo, the new owner said the sale had been made “in cooperation with some highly knowledgeable and experienced art advisers who believe that we must grow with technological movements that help us to not only promote our business but also to support artists and the art market”.
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