Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million

Beeple’s collage, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, sold at Christie’s.
Image: Beeple

Until October, the most Mike Winkelmann — the digital artist known as Beeple — had ever sold a print for was $100.

Today, an NFT of his work sold for $69 million at Christie’s. The sale positions him “among the top three most valuable living artists,” according to the auction house.

The record-smashing NFT sale comes after months of increasingly valuable auctions. In October, Winkelmann sold his first series of NFTs, with a pair going for $66,666.66 each. In December, he sold a series of works for $3.5 million total. And last month, one of the NFTs that originally sold for $66,666.66 was resold for $6.6 million.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique files that live on a blockchain and are able to verify ownership of a work of digital art. Buyers typically get limited rights to display the digital artwork they represent, but in many ways, they’re just buying bragging rights and an asset they may be able to resell later. The technology has absolutely exploded over the past few weeks — and Winkelmann, more than anyone else, has been at the forefront of its rapid rise.

“He showed us this collage, and that was my eureka moment when I knew this was going to be extremely important,” Noah Davis, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, told The Verge. “It was just so monumental and so indicative of what NFTs can do.”

A few factors explain why Beeple’s work has become so valuable. For one, he’s developed a large fan base, with around 2.5 million followers across social channels. And he’s famously prolific: as part of a project called “Everydays,” Winkelmann creates and publishes a new digital artwork every day. The project is now in its 14th year.

At the same time, NFTs have blown up over the past month and — for the moment, at least — are being seen by many as the way digital art will be acquired and traded going forward. For collectors who believe that’s true, the escalating prices are nothing compared to what NFTs will be worth down the road, when the rest of the world has caught onto their value.

Christie’s is also a legitimizing force for both Winkelmann’s art and NFTs as a technology. The 255-year-old auction house has sold some of the most famous paintings in history, from the only known portrait of Shakespeare created during his lifetime to the last-discovered painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Combine that with Winkelmann already being at the forefront of NFT sales, and today’s auction was destined to set records.

“I do view this as the next chapter of art history,” Winkelmann said. “Now there is a way to collect digital art.”

The piece that was sold, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, is a collage of Winkelmann’s work starting at the beginning of the project, when he was posting somewhat crude sketches. It runs through years of evolving digital shapes and sceneries up through the beginning of this year, when he was posting extremely crude political illustrations.

The auction’s winner doesn’t get much: a digital file, mostly, plus some vague rights to present the image. But Winkelmann expects to work with the buyer to find various ways to display the piece physically, whether that’s on a TV in their house or projected onto “the side of a fucking building” at Art Basel.

There’s already been pushback against the rise of NFTs. Plenty of works of questionable artistic value are being sold at hype-driven auctions. Artists’ works have allegedly been stolen and auctioned off as authentic. And many artists are concerned about the climate impact of art sales that rely on blockchain technology, which is notoriously inefficient by design. (Winkelmann said he plans to buy carbon offset for all his NFTs going forward so that their impact is a net positive.)

Those who are early to the space think the tech is here to stay. Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, the collector who bought a Beeple for $66,666 and resold it for 100 times that just four months later, started collecting digital art a year ago and co-founded the Museum of Crypto Art in part to display his growing collection. He sees Winkelmann’s rising sale prices as a way of proving to the public that the technology matters.

“The reason I did that sale was in no way shape or form for the money,” Rodriguez-Fraile said. “I really thought it was the right catalyst to signal the validation of what’s happening in the industry.”

At Christie’s, Davis plans to work with more digital artists to auction NFTs. With a growing crop of smaller marketplaces and countless number of NFTs being created daily, he sees Christie’s role as helping to promote the space in an “extremely thoughtful” way.

“We have more responsibility than we’ve ever had in any collecting category as arbiters of the items that we’re selling,” Davis said.

The plan isn’t to pull more traditional artists into the digital world (a Jeff Koons NFT isn’t next on the list, Davis joked), but to work with established digital artists to explore their “alternative art history.”

Rodriguez-Fraile believes that the next wave of artists and collectors will come to see NFTs as simply the way art is bought and sold.

“I’m confident it’s not a hype thing,” he said. “It’s the catalyst for a generation.”

Comments

Those who are early to the space think the tech is here to stay.

Patently shocked that those involved in this stupid circlejerk cult think this

The tech is here to stay though. It just needs to be democratized and implemented in ways for the average consumer to take part. The trading card industry is poised to be the first to make this for the masses. The Pokémon Company would thrive in this. Card based video games could also thrive.

Every Pokémon card pack people buy comes with a QR code to unlock random online only versions of Pokémon cards to use in their trading card game. Why couldn’t those cards be their own NFT’s? The owner of them would then be in the blockchain & could buy/sell/trade the cards on a marketplace. Rarer cards would have more value & all of the cards would have practical use in a real game.

The Pokémon Company could also sell unique versions of certain cards that could give you access to a real-life event or concert. You could then sell that card in the marketplace to a collector that is willing to pay a premium for it. You experienced that event, they get to own that rare memorabilia. TPC could even offer a printing service for that rare card. They would send that physical card to you framed & with a code that authenticates it as the official physical representation of that NFT.

We’re only scratching the surface of what NFT’s can be. I know these ridiculous stories of millionaires buying NFTs may seem off putting but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. You just have to use a little foresight.

That would be a climate disaster! Each pack of Pokémon cards would use up a household’s whole month’s worth of energy to authenticate.

https://youtu.be/W7JVwbV2JBI

70% of the blockchain is powered with renewable resources tho, that will but only increase with time. Those articles are propaganda that fudge numbers for the sake of fear mongering. Making people worrisome of the environmental impact of blockchain technology is beneficial to the centralized structures that are fearful of blockchain technology replacing them. There are also peoples working actively to reduce the energy consumption of the blockchain. The forces at work aiming to put a halt to blockchain technology & cryptocurrency as a whole are wide reaching.

100% of the energy used for wasteful proof of work for block chain transactions could be diverted to doing useful work. It has a huge climate impact. Even 100% renewable energy has a big negative climate and economic impact. Etherium is much better than Bitcoin, but bank transactions are much better for the climate than even Etherium.

Proof of stake is the solution. Time will resolve these issues.

Also…. prioritize your outrage. Bank transactions is a really slick way to minimize the affect the banking system has on the environment. But these truths aren’t convenient.

Also, you’re ignoring the immense benefit NFT’s could have in saving other aspects of our environment, like the forests & reducing plastic waste. If NFT’s eventually replace things like physical trading cards. But you all will allow this to wash over your heads because you don’t "get" NFT’s and you want to believe the detractors because it feeds into your negative perception of the tech.

Frankly with how destructive crypto and NFT is to the environment, I wouldn’t shed a tear if governments started banning them. Overreach, probably. But we’re at a point where we can’t let a bunch of rich bastards continue to destroy the planet for their cult funbucks

They truly aren’t though.

This is the proof of the digital age second big bang happening.
As new coins emerge every day. Banking system will have to change.
Automation of almost all operations and the new arrival of AI.
Pretty soon we will be reading articles and posts written
by AI like here https://jvz6.com/c/1906137/364116 and get payed for some mediocre work we are doing for the big boys sitting in their yachts.
I think that any idea that gets such a support, stupid or not is worth more than 69M

There is enough money in it now that it will be. Just like bitcoin, the pyramid scheme became to big to fail.

I agree it is stupid. But people seem to like these stupid things.

It’s far from a pyramid scheme. And yes, people have always like stupid things.

Well, NFTs are really shaping up to be something aren’t they?

Alright, let’s get back to work where some are sadly living paycheck to paycheck all with the knowledge that somewhere out there someone is spending $69 million on something of no real value. Just bits on what is effectively a p2p network. I tend to be fairly capitalist, but the "eat the rich" crowd can probably feel pretty validated here.

A lot of what goes on in these high end auctions aren’t what it looks like. People aren’t paying tens of millions because they think the art is actually worth that. It’s just a way to either avoid paying tax, money launder or get around capital control laws.

I mean, I like Beeple and admire the dedication to his work everyday even if I don’t always like his art, but what? Are NFTs actually becoming a thing? How do people actually own something, when we also have access to the original artwork? Sounds like the whole concept when it comes to art, at least, is just for digital ownership bragging rights with no actual ownership. It’s not like, for example, you’re buying a youtube video and then have ownership to monetize it where maybe NFT makes more sense(still debatable even). But no, people are just buying some digital image or video to hang as their desktop wallpaper or just trash it while another guy does the same for free?

Agreed. If it were more like owning the masters or copyright to a song and you were able to reproduce it I might get it. But blockchain bragging rights? Meh. The inflated prices are being driven by crypto whales who are propping up the NFT space because it drives new users to it which in turn drives users to crypto which in turn benefits them as crypto whales.

The people spending ludicrous amounts of money on NFTs are cryptocurrency whales. They know driving interest to NFTs will in turn drive interest to cryptocurrency. Which will then benefit them as whales. The cryptocurrency rich get richer. While everyone else gets played.

Sounds like a Ponzi scheme

No it doesn’t. Not every scam is like a Ponzi scheme (returning of funds and "profits" to earlier investors, the source of which is actually new investors and not actual business or profits), which is pretty different from what the comment above suggested.

Not true. It’s just people laundering their money.

1. It’s funny to see so clear an example of the established art world grab and raise up artists in new fields to keep it as a commoditised market, as David Bowie pointed out really nicely (fully interview here). You can’t get too much more established than Christies.

2. The deeply unreasonable ecological cost of NFTs really can’t be overstated.

Blockchains are actually more valuable than gold, because they have truly limited supplies and truly unique, while gold, the supply is actually endless in the whole universe.

I honest to god can’t tell if you’re just trolling and it makes me want to just take off all my clothes, walk into the ocean, and let cold, dark oblivion take me.

I would like to license this comment to be sold as an NFT. I can offer you $69 million.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑