You’ve probably heard about the record-breaking sale of a digital artwork in 2021 for $69 million… But do you know the artist behind the work that shook up the entire art market? Artsper takes a look at the burgeoning world of NFT art, analyzing the explosive career of digital artist Mike Winkelmann.
Who is Mike Winkelmann?
Mike Winkelmann is a South Carolina resident, living in the heart of suburbia, father of two children, and husband to a school teacher. He drives a Toyota Corolla and lives a quintessential, white-picket-fence life. However, there’s much more to Winkelmann than the proper patriarch to a classic Nuclear Family. Within the expansive world of NFT art (non-fungible tokens), Mike Winkelmann is known as Beeple, digital artist extraordinaire.
Starting in 2007, before the naissance of the world of NFT art, Beeple began “Everydays,” a digital art series. He takes the title quite literally, creating a different artwork every day. He is devoted to his series and never misses a daily artwork. Even during the most paramount days of his life, such as his own wedding, or the births of his two children, Beeple committed to maintaining his digital art project.
Beeple uses this project as a method to develop, improve, and perfect his drawing skills. In the years that ensued, Beeple expanded his mediums, setting personal goals to advance his expertise within a myriad of digital design platforms. For instance, in 2012, Beeple spent the entire year creating works on Adobe Illustrator. Three years later, he focused entirely on Cinema 4D. Since the beginning of the project, Beeple set forth a mission to grow his portfolio of applications. Now, in 2022, Beeple has begun his 15th year of “Everydays.” However, instead of mastering a new platform, Beeple decided to use applications he previously explored, to refine fundamental qualities within his artworks, such as composition and color.
The birth of Beeple’s NFT art
During autumn of 2020, Beeple noticed the growing popularity of NFT art throughout the digital art community. This, of course, sparked intrigue. As Beeple at this point had 13 years of design and digital art experience under his belt, he recognized a profitable opportunity to reimagine his artworks. He reached out to friends who had already created successful NFT art and sought advice. With an Instagram account of nearly 2 million followers and a background in digital creations, Beeple had the perfect launching pad into the world of NFT art at his fingertips.
Shortly after, Beeple released his first drop of NFT art at the end of October 2020, on Nifty Gateway, an online NFT auction platform owned by the Winkelvoss twins. Nifty Gateway is one of several booming online NFT art marketplaces used for minting and selling digital artworks. Beeple’s first sale included three separate pieces, each of which came in an edition of 100, resulting in 300, available works. Beeple set the price for each NFT artwork to $1. He set such a low price because he wasn’t necessarily interested in an overall profit; rather, he was more intrigued by their resale value.
A prosperous re-sale value
A few months later, NFT artworks from the first drop were re-sold for over $600,000. It is important to note that, unlike the typical path to selling tangible artworks – which removes the artist from profit once they sell their artwork– artists who mint NFT art keep a percentage of every sale and re-sale of their artworks (approximately 10%).
In December of 2020, Beeple organized his second NFT art drop. Instead of proposing each available work for a set price, Beeple allowed buyers to bid for prospective pieces. The winning bid for The Complete MF Collection was $777,777, and the overall auction earnings came to a total of approximately $3.5 million. This was only the beginning of Beeple’s fruitful career in the NFT art universe.
Beeple’s impact on the art market
At the beginning of 2021, the flourishing prominence of NFT art crashed the traditional art sector. For the first time, auction houses, galleries, and art institutions recognized the value in the growing medium. Profitability, alone, was enough of an attracting factor, and it became clear that NFT art could no longer be ignored.
In March 2021, Christie’s organized the first-ever auction to include an entirely digital NFT artwork. The said artwork was Everydays: the First 5000 Days, by Beeple. The starting price began at $100 and a bidding war took place for nearly two weeks. By the end of the auction, Beeple changed the course of history. His NFT art sold for more than $69 million, solidifying Beeple’s presence in the canon of art history, alongside names such as David Hockney and Jeff Koons, as one of the three most expensive artists alive.
Beeple is here to stay
In a 2021 article for the New Yorker, written by Kyle Chayka, Beeple addresses a common concern throughout the entire art community. What will happen when, or if, NFT art ceases to exist or lose precedence? His response is simple. Before the conception of NFT art, Beeple created digital artworks, and if NFT art were to indefinitely vanish from thin air, he would continue to do what he loves: make digital art.
Before he dove into a sea of NFT art, Beeple didn’t have a tight grip on the art industry. He had a considerable following on social media, but that wasn’t enough to phase the art market. He wasn’t represented by a single gallery and the traditional art scene didn’t know him or care to get to know him. Beeple radically changed the perception of digital creations within the traditional art landscape. Regardless of whether or not an NFT artwork can be physically handled is irrelevant in terms of the sweeping success and impact on the sector as a whole.
Beeple’s success story holds a powerful message. Ordinary people have the right to achieve the extraordinary and possess the ability to alter traditional industries. Dive even deeper into the emerging world of NFTs with our guide to understanding everything about crypto-art.