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Blockchain art sold for $ 69 million

An American artist has sold a digital artwork at Christie’s for nearly $ 70 million as a non-fungible token (NFT), a blockchain technology that has become all the rage. Observers see a new art market emerging, others remain critical.

The 39-year-old American artist Beeple, Mike Winkelmann is his real name, until recently did not run into the limelight of the traditional art world. He had already collaborated with major brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike and Louis Vuitton, and music artists such as Katy Perry and Childish Gambino. He has 1.8 million followers on Instagram. But on Thursday, Beeple suddenly became a lot more famous. He saw his digital artwork ‘Everyday: the First 5,000 days’ bring in $ 69,346,250. This puts him in the top three of the most expensive living artists, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.

Winkelmann sold his work as a non-fungible token (NFT). Such an NFT can take all kinds of forms, but for Beeple it is about digital video or image, sometimes with a physical object, verified with a digital signature on a blockchain. Non-fungible means that it is a unique digital piece. The blockchain is a system for recording data without central authority, making forgery almost impossible.

Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple.
© AFP

The auction house Christie’s had already received online bids for Winkelmann’s work for two weeks. Christie’s first accepted payments in the virtual currency ether as well as in regular money. The work is 21,069 pixels wide and 21,069 pixels long, a collage of 5,000 images that Beeple made in almost 14 years.

The work will be sent directly from Beeple to the buyer, accompanied by a unique NFT encrypted with the artist’s forgery-proof signature and uniquely identified on the blockchain. MakersPlace, a digital marketplace, has issued the NFT for the work, ”said Christie’s.

The buyer is Justin Sun, founder of the Tron digital coin platform. In 2019, he made a $ 4.57 million winning bid for lunch with investor Warren Buffett.

The work seemed to sell for less than $ 30 million up to seconds before the end of the auction, but at the last minute there was a shower of bids that pushed the price to over 60 million, adding commissions to 69 million. $ 3 million.


For the first time, the auction house Christie’s accepted payments in the virtual currency ether as well as in regular money.

At the end of February, Beeple’s work ‘Crossroad’, a ten-second video, was resold on the specialized platform Nifty Gateway for $ 6.6 million, taking up 10 percent. The interesting thing about the NFTs is that the artist continues to receive a share of the proceeds if later owners resell the work. An animation that Beeple sold for a symbolic dollar at the end of October was recently purchased for $ 150,000.

NFTs are all the rage. Jack Dorsey, the founder of the social network Twitter, auctions his first tweet as an NFT. Its price was at $ 2.5 million earlier this week. The tweet will remain visible on Twitter, but the owner will receive a digital certificate with an encrypted signature and the metadata of the message.

Quite a few observers see NFTs as a good way to make digital art unique and authentic. With smart contracts, the artist can share in later profits. All kinds of variations are possible where the owner of an NFT receives extra benefits.

There is also criticism. Reportedly, NFTs have already been launched on someone else’s work without the creator being aware of, let alone consenting. In that respect, the intervention of an auction house may be a useful protection. The procedure is also very energy intensive.

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