Artist of the future?

Beeple's rise to the art Olympus

Beeple: just a few years ago, a web designer with two million followers who creates digital artworks in his spare time. Since 2021, he is known worldwide as the third most expensive living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney. How did this meteoric rise come about and what role do NFTs play for Beeple − and what role does he play for NFTs?

by Marius Damrow, October 17, 2022

Beeple's real name is Mike Winkelmann. He was born in 1981 and lives an outwardly average life in South Carolina, is married and the father of two children. However, the computer scientist worked for 14 years on a project that was to make him world famous.

Long before NFTs existed, on 1 May 2007, Winkelmann began his Everydays series. Every day he set himself the task of creating a piece of digital art to improve his drawing skills on the computer. He used various programmes such as Adobe Illustrator and Cinema 4D. In terms of content, he deals ironically with current US politics, transplants characters from Toy Story or Winnie the Pooh into dystopian scenarios. His skills improve extremely, and when Beeple begins to enter the NFT world, he turns his life upside down.

Like magic − Beeple and NFTs

Beeple

Everydays: The First 5000 Days

Found at Christies, New York (Online Auction)
Beeple | The First 5000 Days, Lot 1
11. Mar - 11. Mar 2021
Estimate: -1 - -1 USD
Price realised: 69.346.250 USD
Details

In October 2020, Beeple learns about NFTs, who are more prominent in the art market that year than before. Due to the Corona pandemic, the demand for digital art increases enormously. Only two months later, Beeple is already a millionaire. On the platform Nifty Gateways, he publishes several NFTs for sale, initially for one US dollar per piece. In total, the auction there fetches 3.5 million US dollars.

Beeple was previously known in the scene: He created concert visuals for Eminem, Katy Perry, deadmau5, among others, and had almost two million Instagram followers at the time. He thus succeeded in transferring a rather atypical group of buyers to the auction of his NFTs.

Unlike classical art objects, an NFT artist never completely loses the right to shares. About 10% of the price is earned by artists each time their works are resold. Surely this financial stability is one of the reasons why so many artists are jumping on the bandwagon.

Beeple conquers the art market

But the real headlines can only be made on the tradition-conscious art market by working with established institutions. And these cannot afford to ignore phenomena like NFTs, which were the number one topic of conversation in 2020. So Christie's organised an auction in March 2021 with Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, for which he made an NFT of all the work he had made over 14 years.

The starting bid was $100 and the auction, which included only this one work, was to last two weeks. It was the first time an entirely digital artwork had been auctioned. 33 bidders drove up the price, and in the end the work sold for 69.3 million US dollars. A milestone in the young history of art. All of a sudden, Beeple is the third most expensive living artist in the world and the NFT wave is now really getting rolling.

Beeple repeats success

Beeple

HUMAN ONE

Found at Christies, New York
21st Century Evening Sale, Lot 7 A
9. Nov - 9. Nov 2021
Price realised: 28.985.000 USD
Details

In November 2021, Beeple proves that he is not a one-hit wonder with a groundbreaking work. His kinetic video sculpture HUMAN ONE sold for nearly 29 million US Dollars at a Christie's auction. The estimated price was 15 million US dollars.

With this work, Beeple combined digital and physical art in a new way. The two-metre-high sculpture consists of four LED screens that create the impression of a three-dimensional environment. An astronaut marches through different planetary surfaces. Beeple himself can access and modify the files that create the astronaut. He continues to develop his work without the owner's consent even after the sale − if he wants to. Beeple sees HUMAN ONE as the dynamic artwork of the future that will replace conventional paintings and sculptures.

To cement his reputation, Beeple is trying new approaches. For a year, Beeple worked with singer Madonna on three NFT videos, the proceeds of which will go to three non-profit organisations. In May 2022, the platform SuperRare will auction off the Mother of Creation series, which will collectively raise over $300,000.

The web designer has become a world-renowned digital artist who fuels the NFT medium while managing to be independent of it. He does not rely on the NFT wave, but immediately after his breakthrough, tries to create a new hype with HUMAN ONE. The artist masters the medium, not the other way around.Art.Salon

Beeple, Hexagonia, aus der Everydays-Serie, 25.6.2016
behance.net (licence), CC-BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86039519
Beeple, Hexagonia from the Everydays-Series, 25.6.2016
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