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Digital artist Mike Winkelmann — known online as Beeple — has broken crypto-art records. His art is poised to bring in over $10 million on two digital art pieces.
In February, Winkelmann’s piece “Crossroad,” sold for $6.6 million in the highest crypto art sale to date. This week, Beeple is poised for another big sale, after putting his “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” collection on Christie’s in February.
The auction, which will run till March 11, has already hit $3.5 million and represents the first digital art sale for Christie’s — an auction house that was founded in 1766. The historic auction house will also be making its first foray into cryptocurrencies with the sale by accepting Ether for Winkelmann’s piece.
Winkelmann’s piece is a non-fungible tokens (NFT). NFTs operate as a new type of digital asset. The digital tokens have rapidly gained popularity during the pandemic, as brands like the NBA and Nike got in on the trend and artists like Grimes sold art collections for nearly $6 million in under 20 minutes.
NFTs represent an uncharted territory in the market, but the digital assets have already brought in millions for opportunistic buyers.
One NFT investor was able to flip a Beeple piece for nearly 1,000 times its original purchase price in under six months. The Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile told CNBC he bought “Crossroads” because of Beeple’s reputation in the art community.
For many NFT buyers like Rodriguez-Fraile, the digital token’s value can be attributed to its perceived uniqueness or authenticity, as well as its ties to the creator.
“You can go in the Louvre and take a picture of the Mona Lisa and you can have it there, but it doesn’t have any value because it doesn’t have the provenance or the history of the work,” Rodriguez-Fraile told CNBC. “The reality here is that this is very, very valuable because of who is behind it.”
The artists can also continue to benefit from their artwork even after the first sale, as many NFT trading platforms like Nifty Gateway, which was used to sell “Crossroads,” allow artists to receive commission from future sales.
Nyan Cat artist Chris Torres told Insider — after selling his own NFT for nearly $600,000 — that NFTs give power back to the artists.
The name “Beeple” has long been creating a stir on the internet. Winkelmann has been known for making light of controversial topics and his work has been described as satirical, as well as “irreverent” and “visionary,” according to Christie’s. The artist has worked with a host of notable brands and artists, including Louis Vuitton, SpaceX, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber.
The $6.6 million piece,”Crossroads,” is a 10-second clip that depicts a bloated Donald Trump slumped naked in the park and covered in tattoos while people walk by unabashed.
Winkelmann’s other piece “Everdays” represents 5,000 days of images stitched together. Christie’s specialist Noah Davis said in the auction house’s press release the piece shows Winkelmann’s growth as an artist.
The specialist said it is difficult to place a price estimate on the piece.
“We’re replacing our typical Estimate on Request with Estimate Unknown,” Davis said in the press release. “We’re breaking such new ground with this piece, your guess is as good as ours.”