What is Beeple?

Mike Winkelmann, the most well-known digital artist, goes by the alias Beeple.

Beeple made a digital art piece that sold for $69,400,000. This is the greatest amount ever paid for a piece of digital art.

At first glance, the most costly NFT ever sold does not appear to be all that noteworthy. Everyday’s — The First 5000 Days, a visual piece by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, appears to be a chaotic accumulation of colorful pixels when viewed all at once. 

To begin, zoom in on the digital collage, and you’ll notice that Everydays, which sold for a record $69.3 million at Christie’s, is made up of 5,000 individual photos that Beeple created and shared everyday for more than 13 years as a method to practice and refine his skill. “It really is a diary of technology, my life, and the world over these last 13 years,” he told The South China Morning Post.

Everydays is the first purely digital NFT sold by a major auction house. Also, for the first time in its 255-year history, Christie’s accepted the cryptocurrency Ethereum as payment. Beeple’s work was going for just under $30 million with seconds left in the sale, when a last-minute deluge of bids extended the auction by two minutes and pushed the final price above $69 million. He is now the third most expensive living artist, after David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which sold for $90.3 million, and Jeff Koons, whose sculpture, Rabbit, sold for $91.1 million in 2019.

The NFT craze has exploded in recent weeks, meaning there’s a good chance we’re witnessing some sort of market bubble. Todd Levin, an art advisor who witnessed the auction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (the most expensive painting ever sold, at $450.3 million) at Christie’s in 2017, told The New York Times he had “mixed emotions” about the Beeple sale: “On the one hand, it’s super exciting to witness a historical inflection point. On the other hand, the amount of money involved could skew and damage a nascent emerging market. “

Still, lots of non-traditional artists have made bank lately by selling digital works as NFTs. Grimes made $5.8 million on a suite of WarNymph NFTs in late February. Some jokers quadrupled the value of a Banksy screen print by setting it on fire and selling an NFT duplicate. Heck, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is currently hawking his first tweet, and the highest offer is $2.5 million.

There’s something devilishly funny about Beeple’s work setting records in the fine art world. The individual artworks that comprise Everydays are often provocative and nightmarish portrayals of controversial political figures or pop-cultural icons. He told The South China Morning Post that one of his personal favorite images is a mocking depiction of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un that shows him with the head of Pikachu, the torso of Buzz Lightyear, as well as bare breasts and lingerie. Now that technology has made him a multi-millionaire, there’s no going back.