Christie’s Hosts NFT Psychedelic Charity Auction for MAPS

“Some people put hundreds and hundreds of hours of work into what they donated.”


Christie’s Cartography of the Mind online-only auction will donate all proceeds to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

Founded in 1986, MAPS has spent the last 35 years as the running back for the psychedelic movement. The nonprofit regularly funded the research and science needed to ram the ball down the field a few feet at a time, getting a first down a couple of times a decade in the process. As psychedelics continue to normalize, MAPS’ past and forthcoming work have become more celebrated.

But progress isn’t cheap.

In collaboration with collector Ryan Zurrer, founder of Dialectic and Vine Ventures, Christie’s assembled more than two dozen new or recently executed artworks to support MAPS. Noah Davis, Christie’s Head of Digital Art, led the effort to collect the works in collaboration with Zurrer. The auction was timed with the NFT.NYC conference for maximum impact. The bidding ended on June 28 after a week.

Beeple’s Pilgrimage was sitting on a six-figure bid two days out from the auction closing; Christie’s estimated it could go for as high as $250,000. Another piece was created by David Choe and MAPS founder Dr. Rick Doblin. Other artists donating works to the auction include Mad Dog Jones, IX Shells, Sarah Meyohas, Refik Anadol, and many more.

Every dollar raised will be donated to support the research and promotion of potentially life-saving psychedelic therapies led by MAPS.

When announcing his participation on Instagram, Choe noted he’s suffered from PTSD and clinical depression for most of his life. He then explained how important the work MAPS does is to him personally. “It felt like being in a windowless room my whole life with my darkest thoughts and emotions, hearing faint echoes of what normalcy can be on the outside, but having no way to access it until suddenly something not only opens the door, but shatters the entirety of the structure around me,” Choe told his followers. “This is what psychedelics were for me. They saved my life. That’s why I’m doing this.”

Doblin jumped on a call with us to explain how important the auction would be to MAPS moving forward.

“In the entire 36 years of MAPS, we’ve raised about $135 million in donations and grants,” Doblin said. “But we have needed to raise a large amount of money pretty quickly, in order to start preparing for commercialization. Now that it seems like we have a very good chance of succeeding and making MDMA into medicine accepted by the FDA”.

With the new fundraising goals equivalent to half the money the organization had taken in over the years period, Doblin and the gang needed a new approach. Zurrer, who has a psychedelic therapist in his family, was excited to help MAPS with a new approach called regenerative royalty financing.

So after selling all the initial NFTs at Christie’s, MAPS will get a cut of the proceeds from future sales, too. Doblin has been pretty astounded by how it’s all played out.

“It’s just been astonishing,” Doblin said, noting nobody said no to Zurrer or Davis as they petitioned artists to join the auction. “Some people put hundreds and hundreds of hours of work into what they donated.”

Doblin said the only sad thing about all this was the price of Bitcoin being down.

With how much the psychedelic landscape has changed, we asked Doblin how much he’s had to adjust his 10-year plan to account for the rapid progress. He was able to point to the moment he knew it was about to get wild, November 29, 2016.

“That’s when we had what’s called the end of phase two meeting with the FDA,” Doblin said. “So from 2000 to 2016, is when we did a whole series of pilot studies with MDMA for PTSD in Israel, Switzerland, Canada, the United States. And at that point, we presented to the FDA and then they tell us can we go to phase three. And they said yes. So I did think that MAPS would be this far along, but what I didn’t think is that this entire field would be 400 for-profit psychedelic companies.”

Davis also weighed in the auction with us. He deflected any praise the project has received over to Zurrer. We asked him what it was like to be able to pivot the spotlight of NFT.NYC on to a charitable cause?

“Incredibly cool. You know, anytime I get to do anything charitable at Christie’s, it feels special,” Davis said. “We’ve done a few things, charitable sales for NFTs, but this one is just, it’s massive, right? And I think it’s also incredibly cool that Christie’s is getting behind such a potentially taboo organization. There’s a lot of stigma around psychedelic treatments for mental illness.”

Davis has been running Christie’s NFT program since a Beeple NFT went for $69 million. He’ll be departing at the end of the month to be a brand lead for Crypto Punks.

UPDATE: The auction raised $1,569,960 before fees.

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