If you haven’t heard of Beeple yet, it’s quite possible you will in the near future. Beeple is a major figure in the rapidly growing world of digital art and NFTs. His real name is Mike Winkelmann, and the digital artist has created a dystopian piece everyday for the past 13 years.
Winkelmann isn’t who you might expect when you think about a forward-thinking innovator and disruptor in the world of digital art. Winkelmann is a father of two, a husband, and a teacher who lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s a strange story considering the fact that Winkelmann is now a key player in the world of fashion, art, and crypto.
So what else should you know?
Until relatively recently, Mike Winkelmann never sold a print for more than $100. Then, an NFT of his work sold at Christie’s for an astounding $69 million, making him among the top three most valuable currently living artists, according to the renowned auction house.
That particular auction came after auctions that were increasing in value. In October, Winkelmann sold a series of NFTs, and a pair went for $66,666.66 each. Then, he sold a series in December 2020 for a total of $3.5 million.
One of the NFTs that was sold for $66,666.66 initially, then resold soon after for $6.6 million.
NFTs are non-fungible tokens with unique files that live on a blockchain, through which ownership is verified.
A buyer will usually get limited rights to display their digital artwork when they purchase it. The hope among buyers is that they may be able to resell it later.
The technology quickly exploded, with Beeple leading the charge.
Why Is Beeple’s Work So Valuable?
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what’s even going on, you’re not alone. However, there are some reasons that Beeple’s work is so valuable.
First, he has a big fan base with millions of followers on social media. He’s also someone who participates in a long-standing project called “Everyday.” As part of this, Winkelmann produces and publishes a new digital piece of art every single day. The project has been going on for 14 years.
Over the past year, NFTs have also experienced a huge explosion. They’re being seen as the way digital art is going to be acquired and ultimately traded going forward.
The escalating prices, at least from the perspective of collectors, are going to be nothing compared to what they’re worth in the future.
The fact that Christie’s is legitimizing not only Winkelmann but also NFTs, in general, is also important.
Christie’s has been around for hundreds of years and has handled the sales of some of the most famous pieces of art in history.
Winkelmann says he views this as the next chapter of art history.
The piece that was sold by Christie’s is “Everydays: The First 5000 Days.” It’s a collage of his work that begins at the beginning of the project and shows the evolution of the digital scenery and shapes through the beginning of 2021. At the start of 2021, much of the focus shifted to political illustrations.
The winner of the auction got a digital file and some rights to display the image.
However, Winkelmann mentioned he’d work with the buyer to find ways to physically display the pieces.
The Future of Digital Art
The future of digital art is going to extend well beyond Beeple, at least if you listen to experts right now.
Pablo Rodriguez-Fraille is the collector who bought Beeple initially for $66,666 and then resold it months later for 100 times that. He began collecting digital art a few years ago and co-founded the Museum of Crypto Art partially to display his own collection.
Rodriguez-Fraile says he sees the increasing sale prices as a way to show the public the technology is relevant and matters. He says he made the sale not for the money but instead to validate what’s happening in the industry.
There are plans at Christie’s to continue working with digital artists.
The person heading up the efforts at Christie’s says the plan isn’t to try and bring more traditional artists into the digital format but instead to work with established digital artists.
Rodriguez-Fraile says he believes eventually artists and collectors are just going to start seeing NFTs as the way art is both bought and sold.
For Beeple, it seems to all be a bit shocking, but he continues to produce new work that’s undoubtedly going to keep grabbing the world’s attention.