An NFT Artwork by Beeple Just Sold for $69 Million at Christie’s—Making Him the Third Most Expensive Living Artist at Auction
An experiment in uncharted territory at Christie’s just a few weeks ago has spun into an almost unimaginable success as the house’s first-ever auction of an NFT (non-fungible token) artwork soared to a final price of $69.3 million today.
The artist, who goes by the name Beeple, is now the third most valuable living artist in terms of auction prices, after David Hockney and Jeff Koons.
The opening bid, on February 25, was just $100. That quickly soared to more than $1 million, reached more than $9 million by yesterday, and started jumping in $10 million and $15 million increments in the final two minutes of the sale today.
“My clients over 40 think this is either tulips or the emperor’s new clothes,” said 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.”
The Christie’s website saw 22 million visitors tune in during the final minutes of the sale. The majority (58 percent) of bidders were millennials, according to the auction house, while Gen X comprised 33 percent. There were relatively few Gen Z bidders (6 percent) and Boomers (3 percent). Nearly all of them—91 percent—were new buyers to Christie’s.
When the auction house announced the sale this past spring, it said the event marked the first time it would accept cryptocurrency as payment. But a Christie’s representative said it was too soon to say what kind of currency the winning bidder would be using since he or she hasn’t paid yet.
The origins of Beeple’s work, titled Everydays—The First 5000 Days, dates back to May 1, 2007. That was when Beeple (also known as Mike Winkelmann) set out to create and publish online a new artwork every day—a task he has been at for 13 years. His work focuses on society’s alternating obsession with and fear of technology.
The “Everydays” series came together in the Christie’s lot as a composite of every single individual image put into a single place. The work carries an NFT, a unique digital token encrypted with the artist’s signature and individually identified on a blockchain, effectively verifying the rightful owner and authenticity of the creation. The NFT for this work was generated by MakersPlace, a marketplace for digital creators, according to Christie’s.
In the art world, reactions have ranged from glee to stunned silence. Beeple’s own reaction? “Holy fuck.”
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