A non-fungible token by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for over $60 million, making it the most expensive NFT ever sold at auction.
The final sale price could shift higher as final bids are processed and auction fees are added, which could bring the total to more than $69 million. But the sale capped two weeks of frenzied online bidding and ushers in a new era in collectibles, where prices for blockchain-based digital images now rival prices paid for Picassos and Monets. While the future of NFT prices and their longer-term role in the art world remains an open question, and many see it as a speculative fad, the eight-figure price for the Beeple has caused the art world to suddenly take notice.
Shortly after the auction result, Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, tweeted: “Holy #$@”
The record-breaking work, called “The First 5,000 days” was the first ever to sell at a major auction house.
In 2007, Winkelmann set out to post a new work of digital art every day for the rest of his life and hasn’t missed a single day. The first 5,000 of those works, which he calls “Everydays,” were compiled to form “The First 5,000 days.”
The Christie’s sale anoints Beeple as one of the top three living artists in the world by price, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
“At this point, especially after today’s Christie’s sale, it’s not a question of whether NFTs will have an impact on the so-called traditional art market, but to what degree its impact will be felt,” said Andrew Goldstein, editor-in-chief of Artnet News. He added that the price is a sign that a new group of technology-enabled collectors can “destabilize the establishment in attention-grabbing ways.”
While the number of bidders for the Beeple was small — 33 in total. They represented a new generation. Christie’s said 91% of the bidders had never been clients of Christie’s before. Nearly two-thirds were millennials or younger, and most were from the U.S.
In an earlier interview with CNBC, Winkelmann said NFTs have the potential to change more than just the art world.
“As soon as I saw it, I saw it as this massive, massive potential for this as a platform for digital ownership of a bunch of different things, not just art,” he said. “Moving forward, I think this will be seen an alternate form of asset class.”
A virtual art piece titled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days.” Created by digital artist Beeple, it’s the first NFT-based work of art to go on auction at Christie’s.
NFTs, which are any digital assets with ownership recorded on a blockchain, have become a $400 million market — much of that in the past month. Jack Dorsey turned the first-ever tweet from 2006 into an NFT that currently has a top bid of $2.5 million. NBA Top Shots, which are NFTs of NBA highlight videos, have exploded in popularity, with sales topping $200 million and a LeBron James video selling for $208,000. Grimes, the musician and artist, has sold more than $6 million in videos and music.
Until the Christie’s sale, the most expensive NFT ever sold was a Beeple work that was flipped by its owner for $6.6 million.
It’s unclear whether major art auction houses will follow. Sotheby’s said it hasn’t made any announcements about future NFT sales and Phillips said it doesn’t have “any NFT news to share” at the moment.