When the professional digital artist found out how to sell his original image.
You’ve probably heard the story about the struggling artist, plugging away at their craft, toiling at their workplace, day after day, night after night.
While Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, sat with his close family in his living room to watch an auction of his works on Thursday last week, he knew he was going to have a fair price for his work, but never anything like what he encountered. Being an online auction, there were buyers from all over the world, bidding on his pieces and others, each a digital art piece but with a very important modification. They are all completely original.
That afternoon, his original digital artwork, ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, sold for US$69 million. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to Beeple. Only the week before, another of his digital creations went for US$9 million. Reported in the Business Insider Australia magazine, he is quoted as saying “I think it probably means that digital art is here to stay.”
A digital asset investor called Metakovan paid for the work using the world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency. Going by this single name keeps his privacy assured of course, but he reportedly says he bought the piece at a bargain price, seeing the publicity the sale was given globally. “I think this is going to be a billion-dollar piece,” he added when interviewed on Google Hangout.
Beeple has been one of those artists with a wide following. He has a flourishing career going back years in design, animation and digital graphics depicting political and social commentary. His following might be similar to the artist Banksy, but in his case, the work is purely digital. This fact alone is the clincher for the story of Beeple because there has always been a debate about the originality of digital works. Never been a way to prove that the creation has an original origin. Until now. Enter the phenomenon of the NFT (Non-Fungible Token), which means it is completely authenticated via the deep data technology behind Blockchain. This certifies its originality and ownership and tracks the ‘life of the art piece from its creation, right down to the PC used and the artist who created it’.
But, so what is an NFT anyway? Well, let’s break down the phrase. As mentioned earlier, NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. Yeah, well that didn’t help at all did it. But, non-fungible means it can’t be traded for something else. It’s a non-replaceable asset. And the value of it will go up (or down) as the value of an original painting would. Usually up. Especially up when that artist decides they won’t do anything like it again.
But this is something different, again. ‘Everyday’ is an art piece which had an extra, quite invisible piece of code embedded into it that tracks the work back to it’s very beginning. Using Blockchain technology in its most basic form, the technology itself has made the uniqueness of digital art pieces as profitable for the artist as it would be for a traditional artist. Of course, remember though, this doesn’t mean suddenly all our mates at the movie and game studios can retire on huge profits. The market is just as crazy and tough and unpredictable. Original digital paintings can age just as easily (if not more) than an oil painting. Digital image reading formats die off. File may be corrupted. Also, where these works are bought using Ethereum bitcoins, which are kept in digital wallets with passwords, and again, these files can be corrupted. But then again, digital works can be bought using currency one wants to use.
Ben Mauro, another great digital artist has a podcast of his own, and has been interviewed on several occasions about his use of NFTs. He says he finally feels like he is in charge of his own destiny. Able to step back to rekindle his creativity so he can create even better pieces for his clients, and himself. I have dropped a YT link in below from The Art Department podcast interview, which is quite long but very interesting.