London: A digital artwork sold for nearly $US70 million ($90 million) at Christie’s on Thursday, in the first ever sale by a major auction house of a piece of art that does not exist in physical form.
“Everydays – The First 5000 Days” is a digital work by American artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple. It is a collage of 5000 individual images, which were made one-per-day over more than 13 years.
The sale of the work for $US69,346,250 put Beeple in the top three most valuable living artists, Christie’s said in a Tweet.
The work is in the form of a new type of digital asset – a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) – meaning it is authenticated by blockchain, which certifies its originality and ownership.
The market for NFTs has soared in recent months as enthusiasts and investors use spare savings to buy up items that exist online.
Last month, a 10-second video clip featuring an image of a fallen Donald Trump, also by Beeple, sold for $US6.6 million on an NFT marketplace called Nifty Gateway.
“Without the NFTs, there just legitimately was no way to collect digital art,” said Beeple, who specialises in irreverent digital art that explores themes such as technology, wealth and American politics.
Asked what he thought of the multi-million dollar bids on his work, the 39-year-old graphic designer, who has created concert visuals for the likes of Justin Bieber, One Direction and Katy Perry, said he was lost for words.
“I don’t know … maybe you can put an emoji into the story,” he said. “It’s so crazy.”
For NFTs, the artist’s royalties are locked in to the contract: Beeple receives 10 per cent each time the NFT changes hands after the initial sale.
“I do really think that this is going to be seen as the next chapter of art history,” Beeple said.
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