The non-fungible token (NFT) art scene has had a boom of a month and yesterday in New York, the record sale of "Everydays: The First 5000 Days," a digital NFT art piece by Beeple, a.k.a. Mike Winkelmann, propelled the market to new heights, and Winkelmann's artwork into the top-three of most expensive pieces by living artists—just behind "Rabbit" by Jeff Koons, which sold for US$91.1 million in 2019; and "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" by David Hockney, which sold for US$90.3 million in 2018.
NFTs are cryptographic tokens that cannot be interchanged (like cryptocurrency can)—in the art world, NFTs are verifiable ownership of digital artwork, and can be sold with or without copyright (which may be retained by the artist).
What does the buyer of a digital artwork NFT actually get? According to CNBC: "Essentially a long string of numbers and letters. It’s a code that exists on the Ethereum blockchain. It is a block in the chain that will be dropped into their Ethereum wallet."
"Everydays" is not the first Beeple piece that's raked in millions at auction. As NFTs began to gain traction among collectors in 2020, a 10-second digital video clip Beeple created called "Crossroad" was sold to Miami-based mathematician art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile; earlier this month, Rodriguez-Fraile flipped "Crossroad" for US$6.6 million.
CROSSROAD— Nifty Gateway (@niftygateway) February 25, 2021
The #1/1 from beeple's first NG drop has just resold on the secondary market for $6.6 million.
History has just been made.
Congrats to beeple and of course to @pablorfraile for the sale. pic.twitter.com/mTYG4VABSw
"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," Beeple said in a statement provided by Christie's.
"With NFTs 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."
Christie's is proud to offer "Everydays - The First 5000 Days" by @beeple as the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house. Bidding will be open from Feb 25-Mar 11.— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 16, 2021
Learn more here https://t.co/srx95HCE0o | NFT issued in partnership w/ @makersplaceco pic.twitter.com/zymq2DSjy7
"The last year has been an extraordinary period for the art market, and today’s result is a fitting tribute to the significant digital transformation that has taken place at Christie’s," said Christie's post-war and contemporary art specialist Noah Davis.
"And just as our business has evolved, so has the way in which art is being made. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to introduce the Christie’s audience to Beeple’s work, and I’m honored to welcome all the of the remarkable new clients, who not only bid with us, but reached out to share their brilliant ideas on how to further the crypto art movement. Beeple’s success is a testament to the exciting possibilities ahead for this nascent marketplace. Today’s result is a clarion call to all digital artists. Your work has value. Keep making it."
According to data released, there were 33 active bidders for "Everydays," representing three regions: 55 per cent Americas, 27 per cent Europe, 18 per cent Asia. The largest demographic were Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996), who accounted for 58 per cent of active bidders, followed by Generation X (born from 1965 to 1980), coming in at 33 per cent.