Digital artist, Beeple (real name Mike Winkelmann), who kickstarted the popularity of non-fungible tokens earlier this year, has recently showcased his craftsmanship with the sale of his first physical artwork and matching NFT for $28.9 million at a live Christie’s auction in New York. The auction marked Christie’s first auction in its New York salesroom since the pandemic began. The pre-sale show drew over 1,600 people, according to Christie’s, and Beeple himself made a visit to the auction house to discuss his work.

The artwork was supposed to sell for US$15 million; however, the top bid of Swiss venture capitalist Ryan Zurrer exceeded that by US$10 million, plus additional charges. After the sale, 

Zurrer took to Twitter to thank Beeple for his creativity and genius. He described the work as “ visionary innovation, amazing new energy and hilarious positive vibes that you’ve brought to both crypto and art.”

In a statement in October, the Head of Digital Art & Online Sales at Christie’s, Noah Davis, praised Beeple’s brilliance and dominance of the artwork market, noting that he had beat off every possible competition. Davis said, “The pressure on artists of all stripes to outdo themselves in the wake of a massive success can be daunting. In Mike’s case, he practically knocked the entire art world off its axis earlier this year, so I can’t imagine what that weight—the weight of the expectations of this enormous, global audience—must feel like. But I do know that with HUMAN ONE, and against the odds, Mike has achieved something historic.”

Description of the Work

“Human One,” Beeple’s first tangible work, is a seven-foot-tall box with LED panels on each side depicting a humanoid astronaut strolling through many fascinating worlds based on Beeple’s own conceptions. It is intended to be changed and updated on a regular basis throughout Beeple’s life in response to current events. Popular auction house Christie’s described it as an eternally relevant work of art.

Beeple began an NFT Conversation

When Beeple’s piece “Everydays: the First 5000 Days”  sold for a record-breaking US$69 million in March of this year, it helped kickstart the NFT craze. The piece’s eventual owner generated controversy by tokenizing ownership of the artwork across 1.6 million B.20 tokens, which were then sold when their value rose after the sale. The action spurred discussion over the nature of NFT value and its relationship to artificial scarcity, which was exacerbated by Beeple’s ownership of 2% of the tokens.

Beeple is widely considered as one of the faces of the growing NFT movement, and he is billed to make several tv appearances to help bring the concept to greater mainstream adoption.