A Charleston-based digital artist who goes by Beeple became one of the most commercially successful living artists ever on Thursday, when a mosaic of his digital artwork sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s auction house.
The huge sale prompted a two-word reaction from the artist:
But while the art created by Mike Winkelman is provocative and complex, the way it was sold is what’s gotten the most attention. Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” was sold as a non-fungible token (NFT), a relatively new approach to selling digital goods that certifies ownership of a digital asset.
By selling digital goods as NFTs, Winkelman and others believe things like his artwork can retain and appreciate in value, making them collectable — and potentially earning its creator a commission in perpetuity. A series of single-image NFTs that Winkelman sold as $1 proofs of concept last year have gone to resale for thousands of dollars, sending the artist a cut of sales automatically with each transaction.
“The First 5,000 Days” is a mosaic of daily digital art pieces Winkelman produced over the last decade. The record-breaking sale puts Winkelman alongside art-market darlings Jeff Koons and David Hockney, artists whose works routinely sell for many millions of dollars.
On cue, Beeple’s May 13 “Everydays” installment featured his signature naked Buzz Lightyear riding a Koons-esque balloon animal.