Auction Review: ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer NFTs Sell For $485K at Phillips

Liz Catalano
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Phillips continued its expansion into the world of NFTs with a recent sale of three digital works by artist ThankYouX (also known as Ryan Wilson) and composer Hans Zimmer. A timed auction ran from July 20th through July 23rd, 2021, and the works sold for a combined USD 485,100.

“This series of three unique NFTs tell the story of an artistic journey and its evolution over time,” said Rebekah Bowling, Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Senior Specialist. “Just like Hans and Ryan had to navigate the twists and turns and challenges on their pathway to success, these works, [with the] stunning visuals and the compelling score, give life to this journey.”

ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, In Search Of, 2021. Image from Phillips.
ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, In Search Of, 2021. Image from Phillips.

Bidding for the three NFTs started at $100, and each NFT sold for over $115,000. The first artwork in the Sound of Color series, titled In Search Of, achieved the highest hammer price of $226,800. Despite being listed separately, each piece contributes to a cohesive storyline. In Search Of begins with a journey across a desolate landscape dominated by one of ThankYouX’s signature cubes. Additional cubes appear before a blinding light obscures the scene. The story continues in the second piece, Embrace, which shows one of the cubes floating in an otherworldly cave. Acceptance, the final work, shows a different cube crashing into an art museum. The impact leaves rubble in its wake as the cube releases colorful, paint-like blobs into the air. 

Accompanying ThankYouX’s visuals is an original score by Hans Zimmer. The award-winning composer created a cinematic soundtrack for the series. To further link the music to the artwork, Zimmer sampled the sound of ThankYouX’s paintbrush scratching a real-life canvas for part of the score. The resulting collaboration braids the audio and visual elements.

ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, Embrace, 2021. Image from Phillips.
ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, Embrace, 2021. Image from Phillips.

While Sound of Color represents the personal artistic journeys of both ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, it also comments on the rise of NFTs in the art world. ThankYouX’s colorful cubes crash into traditional art spaces and disrupt the status quo. The message is particularly relevant given Phillips’ expanding presence in the NFT market. The auction house entered the fray in April with a self-replicating NFT by Mad Dog Jones (also known as Michah Dowbak). 

The auction industry has increasingly embraced cryptocurrency and NFTs in the months since. Many of the largest auction houses have started accepting cryptocurrency payment for physical items. Recent NFT auctions have included works as diverse as the source code of the Internet and cutting-edge contemporary art. In response, the Sound of Color project explored the narrowing gap between the digital and the physical art worlds. This commentary is visible in the content of the works as well as their composition. Phillips auctioned Embrace, for example, with a physical painting made by both artists.

ThankYouX started his career as a graffiti artist covering the streets of Los Angeles with stencil portraits of Andy Warhol. He eventually moved to canvases, public murals, and the digital world. ThankYouX reports turning down NFT collaboration opportunities with several other musicians before starting Sound of Color. Their music did not feel right for his art style.

“I told my team… ‘I think the only music collaboration I would ever do [would be with] Hans Zimmer. And that will never happen, so I’m never gonna do a music collaboration,’” ThankYouX said. That changed in 2021 when Zimmer started considering NFTs more seriously. The composer has ample experience telling linear musical stories in films such as Rain Man, The Lion King, and Dunkirk. However, Zimmer was interested in crafting more immersive, abstract stories that do not depend on words. He decided to partner with ThankYouX to accomplish that goal.

ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, Acceptance, 2021. Image from Phillips.
ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, Acceptance, 2021. Image from Phillips.

Hans Zimmer joins a growing list of mainstream artists, musicians, and celebrities who have ventured into the realm of NFTs. “This was an emotional and fun experience for me. I have wanted to do something abstract like this for a long time. We tried to create a new experience, something you can’t get out of words, a movie, or painting by itself,” Zimmer said in a statement for Phillips before the sale. “Ultimately, I wanted to make people feel something in a way I haven’t had the opportunity to do before.”

Auction Daily regularly covers record-breaking NFT sales, rising digital artists, and the effects of NFTs on the art market. Read our recent coverage featuring digital artist Micah Johnson.

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