Beeple: who is the artist behind Everydays - The First 5000 Days which sold at a Christie’s auction for £50m?

An NFT of Mike Winkelmann’s collage was sold for a record breaking price at Christie’s first ever digital-only art auction

Friday, 12th March 2021, 3:59 pm
The collage was a collection of Beeple's daily artwork across 5,000 days (Picture: Reuters)

The world of digital art has broken new records, as artwork by artist Beeple sold for a record breaking amount. .

On 11 March, a Christie’s auction in the US sold the digital collage consisting of thousands of images for $69m (£50m).

The work was sold as an NFT (non-fungible token) which is a virtual certificate of authenticity.

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So, who is Beeple and how did he create the digital artwork? This is what you need to know.

Who is Beeple?

Beeple - real name Mike Winkelmann - is a graphic designer and dad of two from Wisconsin, US.

He has nearly 2 million Instagram followers of his page @Beeple_crap, where he describes his work as “art sh*t for yer facehole”.

His work is displayed on his social media and although he has no traditional exhibitions in art galleries, his work has been shown at the US Super Bowl and at Justin Beiber concerts.

Beeple’s art is created with digital pixels, showcasing controversial, humourous and dark scenes created by combining reality with virtual fantasy.

His work has been reported as a commentary of politics, pop culture and business - with a twist.

For example, a recent piece of his work illustrated Donald Trump wearing a leather mask and stripper’s pasties, taking a whip to the coronavirus bug. It was titled “Trump Dominating Covid”.

What piece of art sold for a record-breaking $69m?

The $69 artwork was a collage of some of Beeple’s work.

Beeple created a new piece of digital art every day and sold the first 5,000 days, equating to 13 years of his work, at a Christie’s auction.

The collection is made up of thousands of individual images, with the earliest contributions designed in early 2007.

It was sold in the first digital-only art auction by Christie's auction house for $69m (£50m).

Christie's said the sale has set Beeple as "among the top three most valuable living artists", and set a new world record for digital art.

In December, the first extensive auction of his art grossed $3.5 million in a single weekend.

His artwork received bids of around $10m in the week running up to the auction, but on the final day of bidding, these increased enormously to a final price of $69,346,250.

A record 22 million people watched the final moments of the auction's live stream, which could be partly down to the increasing interest of NFTs.

Why has the interest in NFTs risen?

The digital tokens are linked to new investment styles, similar to crypto currencies Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Critics of this new digital trading method cite huge environmental impact, since they are stored on a Blockchain.

The unique digital tokens are now accepted as a form of value to be assigned to digital art, and can be sold and traded in a similar way to physical art being used as an investment.

Since the growth of the digital currency method, a genuine Banksy original was burned and its digital token put up for sale for $380,000 (£274,000).