Dread Scott's First NFT Sells A White Man On An Auction Block

To Dread Scott, the word “fungible” brought on another meaning that has nothing to do with cryptocurrency or digital art. Fungible is defined as easy to exchange or trade for something else of the same type and value according to Cambridge. For many of us, we were introduced to this word when the term non-fungible token exploded in popularity. Scott, however, was reminded of the term’s use by scholars writing about slavery in the 1980s. 

Humans are inherently non-fungible; one human cannot and will never be replaced by another. But the act of slavery and the commodification of human beings is an attempt at turning the non-fungible into fungible. African slaves were categorized into tiers and were priced accordingly. A 25-year-old man, for instance, would be placed at a higher tier than a 40-year-old woman, making his price significantly higher than hers.

With his first NFT, Scott intends to inject some history and context into that word, while flipping the script of historical slavery in the Western world. Known for his provocative works surrounding the African American experience, Scott’s NFT features a looping video of a white man standing on an auction block at a Brooklyn sidewalk. Scott titled the work White Man For Sale and will be auctioned at Christie’s during a special sale on October 1. 

While it is easy to draw a line between the auction of slaves to the auction of artwork, Scott’s intention was not to criticize specific auction houses or the NFT market. Instead, Scott is aiming for capitalism. “The work is talking more about American history and capitalism than a particular view on auction houses or NFTs, per se,” Scott said to Artnet News.

Scott calls the sale of this work “a really rare opportunity to buy a white male for sale” and that they “don't come up very often.” He is not in charge of the pricing of the work, leaving that to Cristin Tierney. However, Scott did give a rough estimate of how a white man aged 35 might be priced based on his estimated productivity: $2,064,000.

The release of the NFT coincides with Scott’s first solo exhibition in a gallery in 20 years. The exhibition “We’re Going to End Slavery. Join Us!,” which draws on his 2019 staged performance Slave Rebellion Reenactment in and around New Orleans, will open at Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York on September 17.

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