[NEWS] Christie’s auctions 'first digital-only artwork' for $70m

March 17, 2021 

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days NFT, 21,069 pixels x 21,069 pixels (316,939,910 bytes). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd.

A digital asset investor who goes by the handle Metakovan and refuses to give his full name, announced that he is the buyer of the record-breaking $69.3 million digital artwork that sold Thursday. The image file is connected to a non-fungible token (NFT), which was “minted” just last month, and serves as its certificate of authenticity recorded via blockchain technology.

Not only is $69 million the most ever paid for a digital artwork, it’s just behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney for the auction record of any living artist, period. Taken out of the context of the art market though, that number is even more impressive.

The auction for Everydays: the First 5,000 Days opened for bidding on Feb. 25 and shot from $100 to $1 million in minutes. But it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes of the sale that the bidding action became particularly intense. The number quickly jumped from $14 million to $30 million. With seconds to spare, Metakovan placed the winning bid.

A detail from Everydays - The first 5000 Days. Beeple has been drawing everyday for 13 years, often riffing off the news. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 
A detail from his work. NFTs make it possible to collect his digital art in a similar way to paintings, sculptures or conceptual pieces. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd.

“My clients over 40 think this is either tulips or the emperor’s new clothes,” said attorney Thomas Danziger. “But younger clients think this could be the next da Vinci or bigger. People collect the art of their times. This may turn out to be the best thing since sliced bread, in the rearview mirror.”

The Christie’s website saw 22 million visitors tune in during the final minutes of the sale. The majority (58 percent) of bidders were millennials, according to the auction house, while Gen X comprised 33 percent. There were relatively few Gen Z bidders (6 percent) and Boomers (3 percent). Nearly all of them—91 percent—were new buyers to Christie’s.

Beeple’s Crossroads, which sold for $6.6 million USD earlier this year 
Photo: Beeple/Nifty Gateway  

Christie’s 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. But a Christie’s representative said it was too soon to say what kind of currency the winning bidder would be using since he or she hasn’t paid yet.

The “Everydays” series came together in the Christie’s lot as a composite of every single individual image put into a single place. The work carries an NFT, a unique digital token encrypted with the artist’s signature and individually identified on a blockchain, effectively verifying the rightful owner and authenticity of the creation. The NFT for this work was generated by MakersPlace, a marketplace for digital creators, according to Christie’s.


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