On Monday, just days before a piece by the artist was put up for sale by Christie’s, a work by Mike Winkelmann, a net artist who goes by the name Beeple, sold for $6.6 million at Nifty Gateway, an online cryptocurrency marketplace for digital art. According to Nifty Gateway, that makes the Beeple piece the most expensive digital work ever auctioned.
Nifty Gateway announced that the work had sold on Thursday, as a closely watched Beeple piece headed to sale online at Christie’s. Within hours, that piece had skyrocketed in price, and the work had been bid up to $1.8 million. Bidding will continue through March 11.
The work that sold via Nifty Gateway, titled CROSSROADS, was designed as a response to the 2020 presidential election. Depending on the election’s outcome, one of two videos—one featuring a victorious Trump, the other featuring a despondent one—would play.
Like all of Beeple’s pieces, CROSSROADS is a NFT—non-fungible token—work that is authenticated by blockchain technology. The artwork consists of an encrypted image or video file, accompanied by a digital signature that cannot be duplicated, giving buyers the assurance that their purchase is an authentic copy.
Within the fast-growing crypto art market, few names are as well-known as Beeple’s. In December, he made $3.5 million in a single weekend, only the second time the artist had ever offered his art on sale. Within five minutes of opening, the auction at Nifty Gateway broke records for digital art sales. Many of the works were immediately resold at inflated values—some at more than 1,000 percent of their original price.
Interest in NFTs skyrocketed last year, with more than $250 million worth of sales, according to the NFT Report 2020, which tracks the value of the market. The fervor for the work on sale at Christie’s now—titled Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021), and featuring 5,000 images, one made each day over the course of 13 years—could be seen as proof of the medium’s growing popularity.
“We’re at this moment in time where there could be a drastic shift—a demographic shift, a generational shift—when it comes to what excites younger collectors,” said Noah Davis, a Christie’s specialist in post-war and contemporary art in charge of the Beeple sale, told Art Market Monitor this month. “Christie’s as an organization is really excited about a moment in time where you see $3.5 million of sales just organically appear out of thin air. That’s something we want to capitalize on.”