A digital collage by American artist Beeple which exists only as a JPG file sold Thursday for a record $69.3 million at Christie’s, fetching more money than physical works by many better-known artists.
‘Everydays: The First 5,000 Days’ became the most expensive ever ‘non-fungible token’ (NFT) – a collectible digital asset that uses blockchain technology to turn virtual work into a unique item – after being listed at the start of the two-week auction for only $100.
It is a collage of 5,000 individual images, which were made one-per-day over more than thirteen years, and was billed by the auction house as ‘a unique work in the history of digital art’.
Christie’s said 39-year-old Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, is now among the top three most valuable living artists in any medium alongside Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
Yet, six months ago he had not sold any work. ‘Holy f**k,’ he tweeted once the auction closed.
‘Everydays: The First 5,000 Days’ by artist Beeple became the most expensive ever ‘non-fungible token’ on Thursday after being sold at auction for a record $69.3 million, fetching more than physical works by many better-known artists
It is a collage of 5,000 individual images, which were made one-per-day over more than thirteen years, and was billed by the auction house as ‘a unique work in the history of digital art’. One of the individual images is pictured above
The collage is based on a project beginning on May 1, 2007, when Beeple was a bored web designer and started to create a work of art each day, without interruption, to improve his drawing and graphic design. Pictured, one of the images
Christie’s said 39-year-old South Carolina artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann (pictured above), is now among the top three most valuable living artists in any medium alongside Jeff Koons and David Hockney
A flurry of more than 180 bids in the final hour of the auction bumped up the price by tens of millions, jumping from $20million with only 15 minutes to go to the almost $70million placed by the final bidder.
Even with only seconds remaining, the piece had been set to go for less than $30 million before a last-minute cascade prompted a two-minute extension on the auction, with 33 active bidders contesting the work.
Its buyer has not been publicly identified.
‘Holy f**k,’ Beeple tweeted once the auction closed
The price juped by tens of millions in the last few minutes of the Christie’s auction on Thursday
Beeple, who has collaborated with pop stars like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, uses software to create an irreverent visual commentary on 21st century life, according to the New York Times.
His artwork was featured in Louis Vuitton’s Women’s Spring 2019 fashion collection.
And he worked with pop singers Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber to created visuals for their concerts
The South Carolina artist is at the vanguard of an exploding virtual market, feverishly fueled by digital collectors.
In the past Beeple’s works had only been offered in what are known as ‘drops’, timed online sales by blockchain-backed marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, Opensea and Rarible.
Since 2007, Beeple has accumulated nearly two million Instagram followers and collaborated with major brands and famous musicians, attracted by his imaginative graphic universe.
But he had never sold any work under his own name until recently, when the new technology catapulted him into orbit as one of the most fashionable artists in the world.
However, Beeple, with his penchant for foul language and his unpretentious glasses, is no flash in the artistic pan.
Now based in Wisconsin, he has said that his work on a JPEG had ‘as much craft, message, nuance and intent as anything made on a physical canvas’.
‘Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20+ years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it. With NFTs that has now changed,’ he added.
‘I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history.’
The artist said he is keeping his feet on the ground, even though he admits it’s all ‘a little head spinning’.
After 5,000 consecutive days, ‘Everydays’ brought together Beeple’s daily pieces in digital form
Since 2007, American artist Beeple has accumulated nearly two million Instagram followers and collaborated with major brands and famous musicians, attracted by his imaginative graphic universe (as pictured above)
Beeple, who has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and pop stars like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, uses software to create an irreverent visual commentary on 21st century life. Pictured, one of the single images from ‘Everydays: The First 5000’
He has said that his work on a JPEG had ‘as much craft, message, nuance and intent as anything made on a physical canvas’
‘I’ve been creating digital art for quite a while,’ says Beeple – but ‘this NFT stuff’ is new to him. ‘This really feels like it just came out of nowhere.’
‘It’s like, oh, here’s the perfect way to like, sell this work that you’ve already made over the last decade,’ he marvels. ‘It’s super, super good.’
The collage is based on a project beginning on May 1, 2007, when Beeple was a bored web designer and started to create a work of art each day, without interruption, to improve his drawing and graphic design.
After 5,000 consecutive days, ‘Everydays’ brought together his daily pieces in digital form, beginning with a simple image of his Uncle Jim, and ending on a detailed graphic portrait of characters from Donald Trump to Buzz Lightyear to Michael Jackson, depicted as dystopian muses around a child drawing.
Christie’s said the artwork fetched the highest price in an online-only auction and the highest price for any winning bid placed online.
It also marks the first time a major auction house has offered a digital-only artwork with a non-fungible token as a guarantee of its authenticity, as well as the first-time cryptocurrency has been used to pay for an artwork at auction.
The 255-year-old auction house had offered to accept payment in Ethereum.
What are NFTs?
What is a NFT?
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist’s signature and which verifies its ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece.
What do they look like?
Most NFTs include some kind digital artwork, such as photos, videos, GIFs, and music. Theoretically, anything digital could be turned into a NFT.
Where do you buy them?
At the moment, NFTs are most commonly sold in so-called ‘drops’, timed online sales by blockchain-backed marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, Opensea and Rarible.
Why would I want to own one?
There’s an array of reasons why someone may want to buy a NFT. For some, the reason may be emotional value, because NFTs are seen as collectors items. For others, they are seen as an investment opportunity similar to cryptocurrencies, because the value could increase.
When were NFTs created?
Writer and podcaster Andrew Steinwold traced the origins of NFTs back to 2012, with the creation of the Colored Coins cryptocurrency. But NFTs didn’t move into the mainstream until five years later, when the blockchain game CryptoKitties began selling virtual cats in 2017.
NFTs are electronic identifiers confirming a digital collectible is real by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain.
They have a documented provenance that cannot be altered, guaranteeing authenticity and making the work ownable, in contrast to most material on the internet where content is easily duplicated.
It has answered a question vital to digital ownership: how to claim ownership of something that can be easily and endlessly duplicated.
The tokens have swept the online collecting world recently, an offshoot of the boom in cryptocurrencies.
‘Beeple’s success is a testament to the exciting possibilities ahead for this nascent marketplace. Today’s result is a clarion call to all digital artists. Your work has value,’ said Noah Davis, a contemporary art specialist at Christie’s.
The auction house said a record 22 million people watched the dramatic final minutes of the two-week sale as the price rocketed among competing bidders from 11 countries.
Todd Levin, a New York art adviser, told The New York Times that he had mixed emotions about the sale.
‘On the one hand, it’s super exciting to witness a historical inflection point,’ Levin said. ‘On the other hand, the amount of money involved could skew and damage a nascent emerging market.’
At the end of February another of Beeple’s works, ‘Crossroads,’ was resold for $6.6 million on the platform Nifty Gateway, which specializes in virtual works. Beeple, from Charleston, received a 10 percent cut.
And an animation that he himself had sold at the end of October last year for a symbolic dollar was recently acquired for $150,000.
Though bewildering to many, a manic appetite for virtual objects authenticated through blockchain technology has spread through different markets.
Twitter boss Jack Dorsey is selling his first tweet, from back in 2006, which reads ‘just setting up my twttr,’ at an ongoing auction, with bidding reaching $2.5 million.
He has promised to donate the proceeds to charity.
Rock band Kings of Leon is offering a version of their latest album with the tokens that come with extras.
A blockchain company bought a piece of work by British artist Banksy, burned it, and then put a digital version on sale through a non-fungible token.
Dramatic ‘moments’ from National Basketball Association games have also become collectable items as non-fungible tokens, despite remaining freely viewable online.
A 10-second clip showing a spectacular sequence by superstar LeBron James fetched $208,000 on the NBA Top Shot site last month.
And the Associated Press is offering NFT digital artwork – a depiction of the U.S. presidential election’s electoral college map as viewed from space.
Earlier in March, a man paid $208,000 for a clip (pictured above) of LeBron James dunking through an auction by NBA Top Shot, which mints basketball highlights into NFTs. Dramatic ‘moments’ from National Basketball Association games have also become collectable items as non-fungible tokens, despite remaining freely viewable online
Since February 14, an artist named Pest Supply has netted more than $1million auctioning off his NFTs featuring Banksy-style graffiti, including one piece (pictured) that sold for 60 Ethereum coins (ETH), or about $100,000