Renowned auction house Sotheby's confirmed Sunday that it was canceling its "Nativelly Digital: Glitch-ism" auction after one of the featured artists said he would withdraw his art, citing a lack of representation of female-identifying artists.
Patrick Amadon, whose work revolves around the visual style known as "glitch art," said Sotheby’s "Glitch-ism" collection should have been more inclusive.
"While I believe it was a genuine oversight and the team means well, the lack of representation is a serious issue and we need to address this in our space," he said on Twitter. "Female-identifying artists have played a major role in the glitch movement."
I am pulling my work from the Sothebys sale. While I believe it was a genuine oversight and the team means well, the lack of representation is a serious issue and we need to address this in our space. Female-identifying artists have played a major role in the glitch movement. ✊
— Patrick Amadon (@patrickamadon) March 25, 2023
Sotheby’s "Glitch-ism" sale began Friday as a first-of-its-kind, online auction that focuses on the genre of glitch art, composed of NFTs from 21 artists. The artworks’ mediums range from static images in the form of JPEGs to MP4s and GIFs that jitter and distort with the common characteristics of computer malfunctions. As of today, however, sales are on hold.
“Following feedback from the community, Sotheby’s is pausing 'Natively Digital: Glitch-ism' to redress the imbalance in representation within the sale, and will restart with a more equitable and diverse group of artists at a later date," the auction house told Decrypt. "Sotheby’s remains committed to working closely with the community to ensure sales are artist-driven and represent the breadth of digital artists working in Glitch Art and throughout the space.”
The sale follows Sotheby’s "Oddly Satisfying" auction—which also fell under its "Natively Digital" umbrella—featuring 58 NFT pieces and artwork from names like ARC and Lucas Zanotto.
Though the ownership of each piece is represented by an NFT, Sotheby’s had noted on its website that the genre of glitch art extends far beyond just the cryptocurrency and Web3 space, with roots that predate digital assets.
"Whether the work is a reference to the state of cryptocurrency or a wider social commentary, this glitch aesthetic has had a deep and profound impact on the formation of the Digital Art World as a whole," Sotheby’s website states.
Amadon said on Twitter that the piece’s visual flourishes were created by manipulating code in a well-known Microsoft application.
The piece of artwork that had been included in the Sotheby’s sale is titled “STATIC GLITCH 2013.” It had secured 21 bids, the latest offer tallying $8,500, prior to Sotheby's announcement.
One of my first glitched physical paintings from 2013. The digital glitch effect was achieved solely through the manipulation of code in the Microsoft default application Wordpad.exe to create the individual frames from a photo of the painting.
— Patrick Amadon (@patrickamadon) March 24, 2023
Amadon emphasized the importance of representation and inclusivity, signaling his decision was meant to influence how artists would be showcased in the future more broadly—not limited to Sotheby’s "Glitch-ism" sale.
"It's critical that we build this movement correctly," he said. "Everything we do now not only affects our community today, it will affect thousands on thousands of future artists that inherit what we've left them."
Representation is important. Inclusivity is important. It's critical that we build this movement correctly since everything we do now not only affects our community today, it will affect thousands on thousands of future artists that inherit what we've left them.
— Patrick Amadon (@patrickamadon) March 25, 2023
Another Amadon piece had just landed at the intersection of art and social movements. His artwork titled “No Rioters” was removed from a billboard in Hong Kong earlier this month, as reported by the Associated Press.
@patrickamadon said what happened to his work showed that the city had lost its freedom of expression and artistic freedom.
“This objectively shows that they are no longer here in the same way that they once were,” he said. https://t.co/yg49njcdkq
— Kanis Leung (@kanis_leung) March 23, 2023
The piece was meant to show solidarity with pro-democracy protestors who took to the city’s streets in 2019, subliminally flickering the names of activists that were arrested during the movement along with details about their prison sentences.
"Proving that one person can make change happen, Patrick Amadon steps up at a time when he could truly, just leverage his success to benefit monetarily after his Hong Kong happening," wrote Fellow glitch artist Liz on Twitter. "Instead he uses his newly earned fame to publicly protest lack of representation in art. Awesome example."
Editor's note: this article has been updated to note that Sotheby's has paused the auction and to include comment from the auction house.