The piece, titled Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, sold for $69.4m in an online auction, “positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists”, Christie’s said via Twitter on Thursday. Christies said it also marks the first time a major auction house has offered a digital-only artwork with a non-fungible token as a guarantee of its authenticity, as well as the first-time cryptocurrency has been used to pay for an artwork at auction.
Artist Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, called it ‘the beginning of the next chapter in art history’ “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 released by Christies. “With NFTs that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art.”
Christies did not identify the buyer of the artwork, which consists of 5,000 individual digital pictures stitched together that Beeple created – one each day – since May 2007.
Non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, are electronic identifiers confirming a digital collectible is real by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain. The tokens have swept the online collecting world recently, an offshoot of the boom in cryptocurrencies. Used to prove that an item is one of a kind and are aimed at solving a problem central to digital collectibles: how to claim ownership of something that can be easily and endlessly duplicated.
Christies said the artwork fetched the highest price in an online-only auction and the highest price for any winning bid placed online. About 22 million people tuned in on the Christies’ website for the final moments of bidding, with bidders from 11 countries taking part.
Others have also joined the craze for NFTs. Jack Dorsey, the Twitter CEO, put his first ever tweet – “just setting up my twttr” – up for online auction as an NFT, with bids reaching as high as $2.5m, and he promised to donate the proceeds to charity. The rock band Kings of Leon is offering a version of their latest album with the tokens that come with extras. A blockchain company bought a piece of work by British artist Banksy, burned it and then put a digital version on sale through a non-fungible token.