Exploding onto the Art Market: Digital artist Beeple sells NFT for $69 million USD
Beeple (Mike Winklemann) born 1981, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, 21,069 x 21,069 pixels, minted 16 February 2021
Simplistically, Christie’s and Mike Winkelmann – aka Beeple - just sold an encrypted digital file with a jpeg for $69 million USD. EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS is the first stand-alone NFT (Non-fungible token) work of art to be offered by a major auction house. The work was minted exclusively for Christies’s and is tied to the Ethereum blockchain, with the auction house accepting cryptocurrency Ether as payment.
EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS is now one of the 20 most expensive works of art sold at auction, ever. The price locates Beeple in the market of blue-chip artists such as Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly and Basquiat. But their works have been trading in the secondary market for decades. Six months ago, Beeple was yet to sell his first NFT work of art.
Beeple has no gallery representation, no foothold in the traditional art world (until today). The market for NFTs, essentially unique digital collectables, has been developing since 2016, when artists discovered they could apply the principles of cryptocurrency to making and selling art, uploaded and traded on blockchain platforms. Artists can by-pass traditional systems of the arguably opaque art world, selling their work directly to collectors. Each time an NFT is then traded, it generates a 10% royalty to the artist. The unique encrypted files also protect the buyer, guaranteeing authenticity and unbroken provenance. The market expanded significantly over the past year, fuelled by the wealth amassed by cryptocurrency speculators and high-profile collectors such as Elon Musk and Chamath Palihapitiya.
EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS is only the second NFT to be offered for sale by a major auction house. The record sale relies on the very tradition NFT artists seek to decentralise.
EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS is a monumental collage of 5,000 individual digital images that Beeple created every day since 1 May 2007 and posted on Instagram (attracting over 1.8million followers). The images are stitched together in recurring themes and colour schemes to create an aesthetic whole in loose chronological order. The work documents Beeple’s evolution as an artist over a 13-year period, beginning with basic drawings to technically sophisticated digital images. Over the past five years, he increasingly commented on timely and current events through his irreverent, grotesque and bizarre digital imagery.