Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, became one of the most expensive living artists in the world when he sold Everydays: The First 5,000 Days (2021) at Christie’s for $69 million earlier this year. The sale was groundbreaking—not only had the work fetched such an astronomical price, the piece also effectively induced NFT fever within the art world.
So it’s a bit of an ironic twist that the poster boy of this medium is returning to Christie’s with a physical piece: a sculpture called Human One (2021). The sculpture will be offered at Christie’s 21st century evening sale on November 9, where it’s expected to bring in around $15 million. That being said, it’s not as if Beeple is offering a traditional artwork. The piece has both digital and physical components, and naturally also comes with a corresponding NFT.
Human One is a seven-foot-tall box-like structure covered in LED screens that display 24 hours worth of video. In that footage, an astronaut is shown walking rhythmically through dystopian landscapes. The structure and corresponding video are arranged so that the piece appears to contain a life-size, three-dimensional figure that turns as the sculpture rotates.
In interview, Noah Davis, Christie’s head of digital sales, claimed that the sculpture is the first work that is both unique and also “integrated, dynamic, physical, and NFT-based.” Davis said that the smart contract of the NFT was specially coded so that even when the work is sold, Winkelmann will continue to have remote control over what is displayed on those screens. “Mike can change the art remotely forever—he could decide to shut it down, destroy it,” according to Davis. “The collector will have to be OK with the work changing, because there’s very little chance that [Winkelmann] won’t take the opportunity to surprise the collector with new work.”
In a statement, Wikelmann said he relishes the opportunity to fully explore the potential of making works that combine digital and physical materials. “While a traditional work of art is more akin to a finite statement, frozen in time at the moment it was completed,” he added, “this artwork’s unique ability to be updated makes it more akin to an ongoing conversation.”