At the age of 26, Wisconsin web designer Michael Winkelmann began creating a new digital work of art every day in his personal time. He calls them “Everydays”.
“I’ve seen a pretty big step in my work,” he says. “The ‘Everydays’ are basically just the pictures I take every day, and I’ve been doing that for over 5,000 days.”
Thirteen years later, Beeple, as he is better known, was hired by big acts like Justin Bieber and Imagine Dragons and emerged as a landmark figure in the NFT community in 2020. His digital art collections have reached record prices in the millions at NFT auction houses like Rarible and Nifty, and he is about to take a big step into the mainstream. Christies is offering a collage of 5000 Everydays pieces from February 25th to March 11th.
“This monumental digital collage marks the first time Beeple’s work has been sold in a major auction house,” Christies said in an announcement. “It is also the first purely digital work of art (NFT) to be offered in a traditional auction house. The authenticity is ensured thanks to the blockchain technology.”
Beeple’s work touches on politics and pop culture. Case in point is a recent image depicting Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as an octopus that he created the day the billionaire announced his impending resignation as CEO. Winkelmann says his daily ritual made him a better artist.
“The broader message of this entire everyday project is just about practicing and looking at things over the long term. I see it as a long term project. And so improve gradually and just stick to something. “
The 39-year-old Winkelmann only discovered NFTs around four months ago and immediately set to work to convert his freely available Instagram art into coveted digital collectibles. In November, he sold a Wahl-themed digital collectible for $ 66,666.60, and a December auction raised $ 3.5 million. While one piece cost up to $ 777,777, it sold hundreds of images for $ 969, each of which has grown exponentially in value since then.
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which means that each token is unique and therefore different from other tokens. Unique tokens make it possible to mark them as ownership of certain digital goods, which enables transferable ownership of digital images, text or even in-game items.
“I think it’s only seen as a digital art revolution. I firmly believe that this is the beginning of the next chapter in art history.”
The Wisconsin artist says that while NFTs are anything reproducible on the Internet, NFTs allow individual ownership of a piece, despite the fact that it is copied and widely distributed.
“I’m very open to allowing people to share things and post anywhere,” he says. “You can’t monitor the internet. You post on the internet, it’s the best internet! The cool thing about the blockchain is that you can have it both ways.”
He adds that NFTs are “a very beneficial way of collecting art because it will live on as long as the blockchain does, and it can take all of different forms.”
I received 4 offers ranging from $ 12,000 to $ 14,000 today on @ beeples policy. BS NFT.
What’s going on 😱
I bought it for $ 1k like 2 months ago. pic.twitter.com/q94wXmi3xh
– Matty (@DCLBlogger) February 8, 2021
Last December, Winkelmann made headlines after auctioning off a collection of digital artworks for $ 3.5 million on the Nifty platform. While Everydays’ last 13 years have seen steady career development with better customers and higher paychecks, he wasn’t entirely prepared for overnight success.
“That was the big change where it was like, ‘Oh shit, this is it’. This is a crazy opportunity to look at my work that I never really considered a collector’s item and now it’s suddenly like, ‘Wow, this is very collectible! ‘”
But he points out that before the auction he wasn’t a starving artist: “[Many people] I think that’s a little more rags for riches than it is. I’ve made pretty good money before. “
While he attributes his success to a large fan base on social media and establishes himself as “one of the most famous digital artists”, Winkelmann admits that he was in the right place at the right time even with little competition.
“There are a lot of low-hanging fruit […] In more mature spaces, you really have to come up with a fantastic idea to get noticed. Everyone already has the easy shit. It feels like there is still a lot of simple shit to try. “
An artistic revolution
Art is supposed to be either plagiarism or revolution. The art world is in a constant state of redefinition and it is normal for new styles to begin as subterranean “degenerate” movements struggling for acceptance in the established art world. In this way, it is similar to cryptocurrency, which was first rejected and ridiculed by traditional investors and institutions, many of whom are now being re-rated.
In the past, Winkelmann said that neither graphics nor graphic designers could really exist in the traditional sense. No graphic artist could really sell his personal work – he had to work as a craftsman because working as an independent digital artist was not an option.
“It wasn’t. There was just no way to collect your work. The technology didn’t exist, and the market didn’t exist … Everyone was just, you know, freelancing or just had a job or whatever.”
This means that the NFT’s innovation, which represents ownership of digital art, represents a crucial moment in art itself: art no longer has to be a physical item to be sold and displayed, but is as legitimate as one that is digitally expressed and cryptographically transferable manifestation of the artist’s mind.
Winkelmann said the upcoming Christies auction of his collage will be another milestone as it is a major auction house that is “holding their first ever 100% digital auction. There will be no physical piece; You are literally only auctioning a JPEG. I think it’s going to be a very big moment and a big affirmation for this space. They will also be accepting Ether for this auction for the first time. “(Christie’s auctioned a combination of physical labor and NFT last year for $ 130,000.)
“Whoever is buying it, I’ll be working with them in the future to say, ‘Okay, how are we going to show this? ‘Do we want to project it onto the side of a building, do we want to make a giant screen of it? Do we want to bring it to a big screen? The work of art itself can take various forms. that’s the beauty of digital art. “
Christie’s is proud to offer @beeple’s “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” as the first all-digital artwork ever offered by a major auction house. The bidding is open from February 25th to March 11th.
Find out more here https://t.co/srx95HCE0o | NFT exhibited in partnership with @makersplaceco pic.twitter.com/zymq2DSjy7
– Christie’s (@ChristiesInc) February 16, 2021
Banksy on it
Beeple’s NFT journey from avant-garde to acceptance follows an arc not dissimilar to other hugely successful artists like Banksy, whose graffiti stencil art now reliably sells for millions. “That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. That was vandalism. Just as graffiti is not” art “, it is vandalism.”
In fact, we don’t have to go far back in time to find similar narratives in the blockchain space. In early 2018, one of the earliest NFT projects, Cryptokitties slowed the entire Ethereum network, leading to people accusing the lovable but useless NFT cats of ruining Ethereum.
It’s an unfortunate arc of art that experimental artists are often underestimated in their day, with Van Gogh and Monet dying in the dark before gaining widespread recognition for their work. “So you say I’m going to die?” Winkelmann asks sarcastically, but with a touch of existential fear, to which I assure him that he is way ahead of his historical colleagues. He agrees. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position, especially so young that I can benefit from it.”
While he may have a lot of money now, Winkelmann won’t be rushing to buy a Lamborghini.
“Honestly, I really just go back to it and do more and more art and cooler projects that I wasn’t able to do […] I see everyone who collects my artwork very much as an ambassador, and they gave me the money to like “OK, come on, do even cooler things,” and I want to do that. I want to do bigger projects that obviously require more money, or hire people, or this or that. “
Given its generous art budget, I suggest an NFT Bitcoin Lamborghini that comes with a real, physical Lambo as a physical bonus token. “I think that’s a good idea, that would be great! Is it a green or a yellow Lambo?” He asks. “I have to find out something like this, I think that would be very interesting.”
I tell him I am calling for a 10% cut in this idea. Beeple laughs. “You have all your royalties set up there!”
Art markets reinvented
When it comes to royalties, NFTs open up new opportunities for artists as the pieces can be programmed so that a 10% royalty is refunded to the artist on every sale.
This means that if an artist originally sells a piece for $ 100 and the buyer sells it to someone else a few months later for $ 1,000, the artist doubles their income to $ 200. What’s even more exciting is that a sale of $ 100,000 makes the artist $ 10,000 years after the original sale, and the artist’s great-grandchildren could theoretically benefit from the sale of the art a hundred years later. In this new order, artists have a lifelong relationship with their works and are ambassadors for those works. “When you buy one of my NFTs, that is the beginning of a relationship,” says Winkelmann.
There are several platforms on which NFTs can be traded. Winkelmann prefers Nifty Gateway, owned by the Winklevoss twins, for its sales. Far from being a cryptocurrency maximalist, he prefers to make his blockchain-enabled artwork as accessible as possible.
“What I liked about Nifty is that they accept credit card payments. And again, I see the NFTs and the blockchain as a kind of means to an end rather than an end. It’s one of those things that nobody really cares about how credit cards work. They just work, they make your life easier, and that’s how I see NFTs. “
He adds, “Nobody will worry about how NFT works or what blockchain they are on.”
Until recently, a large part of NFT art had come decidedly close to the ideas around cryptocurrency and blockchain, which gave them a kind of meta-quality. Winkelmann believes this will change, as NFTs are just “the mechanism by which they are made, provenance and ownership. I don’t think it will have that much to do with crypto in the future. “
Cryptographic art will certainly continue to exist, but as a “subset of digital art”.
Visions of the future
Winkelmann believes that everything will be digitized and that our lives will soon revolve around virtual and augmented reality. This is reminiscent of the concept of The Metaverse, which refers to a continuous, shared 3D space that connects different virtual worlds. It was originally described by Neil Stephenson in 1992.
This future could be closer than we think. 20 1/1 NFTs in Beeples, the final auction, were bought by an NFT fund for $ 2.2 million (yes, things like that exist) to start up digital VR art galleries in several virtual words, including cryptovoxels , Decentraland and Somnium Space. The pieces have been bundled together with virtual land and museums and marked as B.20 tokens so that anyone can own a piece of NFT history. Winkelmann says we’re just beginning to explore the possibilities:
“I think we will like to look back on the days when we were stuck on our phones as the ‘good old days’. The alternate realities that people live in now will be nothing compared to the alternate realities that people will live in when AR really becomes a very workable thing and people wear these headsets all day. I think you will see how crazy shit happens. “