A collage by American artist Beeple has become the most expensive digital image ever, with the blockchain-verified artwork fetching over $69 million at auction.
The artwork, titled Everydays: The First 5000 Days, was listed by Christie’s on February 25 for only $100, becoming the first purely digital artwork backed by a non-fungible token (NFT) to be put under the hammer by a major auction house.
An NFT is a blockchain-based certificate of authenticity that can be assigned to virtual artworks to verify their origin and ownership.
As the artwork shot up to $69,346,250 on the final day, some 22 million people tuned in to follow the final minutes of the auction on Christie’s website.
The widespread interest has been buoyed by a recent boom in crypto art, or what Wired is calling an “NFT gold rush” not unlike the Bitcoin bubble.
The advent of NFTs has made it possible for original digital artworks, which can be very easily duplicated, to be sold, collected and traded for profit just like physical art.
“Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20 plus years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it,” said Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann.
“With NFTs that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art.”
Winkelmann has been posting a digital artwork on his Instagram every day since May of 2007, during which time his account has garnered almost 2 million followers. The record-breaking artwork Everydays: The First 5000 Days is a collage of his daily digital creations spanning more than 13 years.
The artist sold his first two NFT-backed artworks in October 2020, fetching $66,666 each. Only a few months later in February 2021, one of these artworks was resold on crypto art marketplace Nifty Gateway for a hundred times as much, earning the owner $6.6 million.