Christie’s first ever purely digital auction has set a new world record for digital art, selling an NFT (Non-Fungible Token) by Beeple for a staggering US$69 million (£50 million). Afterwards the auction house declared Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann, “among the top three most valuable living artists.”
Titled ‘Everydays: The First 5,000 Days’, the artwork is a collage of thousands of surreal and unsettling images created by Beeple using a variety of digital modelling programmes. He began the collection in early 2007 and has since created a new piece for 5064 consecutive days.
NFT artworks like this one have surged in popularity over the last few weeks, with the likes of musician Grimes making almost US$6 million (£4 million) from the sale of her digital collection and the digital version of a destroyed Banksy print selling for US$380,000 (£274,000).
This week’s historic auction proved no less popular. An unprecedented and record-breaking 22 million people watched the final moments of the auction’s livestream, which saw bidding rapidly rise in US$15 million (£10.8 million) increments in the last few minutes. Bidders hailed from 11 countries and an astounding 91 percent of them were new buyers to Christie’s. The anonymous winning bidder paid for the artwork in cryptocurrency.
But digital artwork has been around for a while, so why the sudden boom? “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,” explained Beeple. “With NFTs that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art.”
NFTs, or unique digital tokens, guarantee the authenticity of a digital artwork by encrypting the artist’s signature and tracking its provenance using blockchain technology. The NFT for Beeple’s ‘Everyday’ piece was generated by MakersPlace, a marketplace for digital creators.
“My clients over 40 think this is either tulips or the emperor’s new clothes,” remarked art law attorney Thomas Danziger. “But younger clients think this could be the next da Vinci or bigger. People collect the art of their times. This may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread, in the rearview mirror.”
Even the artist himself was shocked by the dizzying heights his collage reached. Reacting on Twitter moments after the winning bid had been placed, Beeple exclaimed: “Holy f***!”