The digital art phenomenon has been swept up by NFTs. For those who don't know yet, NFTs – "non-fungible tokens" are basically a digital certificate of authenticity that lives on the blockchain. When assigned to something like a piece of digital art, it creates a one-of-a-kind work of art that can be bought, sold, and traded online just like paintings or sculptures. Now, no less an art authority than the Christie's auction house has endorsed NFTs in a big way, presiding over a $69 million sale of a digital image that doesn't even exist in the physical realm.
It's called "Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" by artist Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as Beeple. The $69 million sale price puts him into the echelons of works sold by Picasso.
[We wish we could show you a photo the piece that sold but there weren't any images available in our Getty Images library and we're guessing that something that just sold for $69 million is pretty well copyright protected.]
The piece is essentially an omnibus collection of every single piece made by Beeple over the course of 5,000 days, combining the thousands of works into one overarching piece of its own.
"Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" is now the most expensive work of digital art ever made, obliterating the previous record: the $6.6 million "Crossroads," which also happens to be a Beeple piece that sold at that price last month, which gives you an idea of how momentous a period for digital art that last few weeks have been.
NFTs can't be directly exchanged for cash like cryptocurrencies are, but they do have the potential to appreciate on the open art market, just as traditional paintings do. And every time a work of digital art – usually a still image or video, at least so far – is sold, the original artist receives a cut of the proceeds.
The bidding on "Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" started at just one dollar, and reportedly took more than 350 bids to reach the final price of $69.3 million. In another milestone represented by the sale, the price will be paid in Ethereum, the first cryptocurrency of any kind to be accepted in a sale by Christie's.