A creation by the digital artist known as Beeple was sold at Christie’s for 58 million euros. In addition to breaking the record amount paid for a digital piece, the piece exceeded the value of other works of classic artists such as Picasso, van Gogh, Rothko or Manet.
The auction had a starting base of 84€ but the bids were nowhere near that number. A few seconds before the end, the value of ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ remained at 30 million. Suddenly, in an avalanche of bids, the value skyrocketed to nearly 58 million euros.
Mike Winkelmann, the artist behind Bleep, became one of the most valuable artists still alive. ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ is a jpeg file, the most common file type for sharing images. On it are pasted all the digitally created images that, on a daily basis, Bleep has shared online since 2007. The file is the third most expensive work of art sold by a living artist, only surpassed by Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
Beeple’s record-breaking piece has not been the only digital work the artist sold. A 10-second video was bought for more than six million in February – after initially being purchased in October for more than 60,000 euros.
The auction, which took place online on March 11th, was viewed live by some 22 million people. A sign that the new trend in digital art may soon be breaking records again.
The sale at Christie’s reveals something more profound about what’s going on these days in the art and digital world. ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ is not only a digital file. It is an NFT, a “non-fungible token”, that is, a kind of token or infungible (or non-fungible) code that guarantees not only the authenticity of the work, but also to whom it belongs. Anything can be turned into an NFT: images, gifs, videos or even a tweet – this is what Twitter founder Jack Dorsey recently did, creating an NFT of the platform’s first tweet that will go up for auction on March 21 and could be worth more than 20 million euros.
What NFTs use is similar to the technology used for cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, which is otherwise used for transactions in the new art world. ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ was paid for in cryptocurrencies.
On March 3rd, the Burnt Banksy, a group of anonymous artists, burned the original illustration of Banksy’s ‘Morons’ live on YouTube. The work had been turned into an NFT with a digital copy. Once the original, which was worth several tens of thousands of euros, was destroyed, only the digital version remained, whose value skyrocketed. The NFT was sold on the Open Sea market for over 380,000 euros, tripling the value of the original physical version.
This speculative digital art market is not new. In 2017, digital images of cats were already being sold for thousands of euros. And the big brands also want to join in for the ride on this new craze.