Picasso and other masters regularly fetch tens of millions at auction. A purely digital NFT artwork by Beeple just headed into that price stratosphere.
The final bid of $69.3 million is the third highest price for a living artist at auction, a new world record for any work of digital art, the highest price for any lot in any online-only auction, the highest price for any winning bid placed online, and the highest total for any online-only auction.
No estimate was given for Everydays – The First 5000 Days by digital artist Beeple in Christie's two-week online-only sale ending on March 11. This stand alone sale marked the first time that a purely digital NFT (Non-Fungible Token) based work of art has ever been offered by a major auction house. Christie's parterned with MakersPlace, a leading marketplace for online collectibles.
The emerging NFT market has already seen Grimes sell more than $6 million worth of cherubs-in-space-themed digital artworks after putting them up for auction on Nifty Gateway last week. Beeple previously fetched a then-record $6.6 million for his election-themed CROSSROADS in February.
Among the many other online cryptocurrency marketplaces for digital art and collectibles, Valuables by Cent had Jack Dorsey's first tweet, currently at $2,500,000. The Twitter co-founder and CEO says he plans to donate the bitcoin from the sale to Give Directly.
Even before the past month's mega-expansion, the NFT market exceeded more than $400 million in transactions during 2020, several fold more than occured during the previous year, according to Forbes.
In one crypto company's recent stunt, an original Banksy work titled "Morons" was burned and the act was made into a NFT that sold for $380,000. "'Morons' is itself a critique of the art market, depicting an auctioneer at Christie's," reported the BBC.
As of Wednesday evening, bidding on the Beeple at Christie's stood at $13,250,000. The final price on Thursday: $69,346,250.
Earlier from Forbes: "It’s possible it could fetch as much as $20 million and perhaps higher, according to three active participants in the nascent market for NFTs. For perspective, such a price tag would place Beeple alongside names like Picasso, Rembrandt, Rothko and Van Gogh, all of whom have had work sell at similar levels."
“NFTs, I think, really could be an alternate asset class, one that speaks to a younger generation, who maybe does not want to invest in stocks,” said Beeple (the artist Mike Winkelmann) to Forbes. “Maybe they would rather invest in digital collectibles and things like that—things that speak more to their culture and how they sort of interact with the world.”
Ahead of the auction, Winkelmann, 41, noted to the New York Times that the fine art world is “finally starting to recognize digital artists as real art."
Winkelmann created a drawing, mostly using computer software, every single day for the last 13 years. Christie's initial Beeple offering is a composite of 5,000 days of the project.
After the Christie's sale he commented: "Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20+ years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it. With NFT’s that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art. This is work that has just as much craft, message, nuance and intent as anything made on a physical canvas and I am beyond honored and humbled to represent the digital art community in this historic moment."
A Christie's post-sale statement noted that more NFT art sales will be ahead.
[This article was updated with the sale price after 10am EST on 3/11/21.]