If you paid $69.3 million for a piece of art, you'd expect it to be an original that you could hang above your fireplace and gaze adoringly at, right? Thanks to the modern world's tendency to throw up unfathomable curveballs, you could now be wrong. Actually, that incredible sum of almost $70 million has just been spent on a 'non-fungible token' (NFT), which (in this case) is essentially a piece of digital art presented as a JPG file. Wow.
Auction house Christie's received over 180 bids for its first completely digital NFT, Beeple's Everydays – The First 5000 Days (below). with the majority of the bids dramatically pouring in during the final few seconds. Hearing this, you may feel immediately inspired to create your own using the best digital art software, but it's likely you're a bit lost as to what the heck is actually going on here. (To demystify the situation, we created this guide to NFTs, so be sure to check it out)
So here goes. Non-fungible tokens are unique digital assets, which cannot be replaced like-for-like (hence, non-fungible), in a similar way to a unique piece of art or a baseball card. And in that way, they hold value – just like physical art. They are also part of the Ethereum blockchain, so they're a type of crypto currency, and all this means they're investments in the same way as a physical collector's item. And NFTs are certainly having a moment, with brands from Taco Bell to Gucci jumping on board.
Artist Beeple, also known as Mike Winkelmann, is a newcomer to the NFT-selling game (talk about starting with a bang) and the auction of his work is not only the most expensive NFT ever sold, but the third-highest price ever paid for a living artist. Everydays – The First 5000 Days is a collage collection of Beeple's work, which he has been uploading at a rate of one a day since 2007 (hence the first 5,000 days). Check out his reaction to the events of the auction in the Christie's Instagram post below.
Interestingly, the way NFTs work means you can own, print or digitally post a copy of the digital file (like we have above), just like you would own a print of a piece of art. But the value is tied to the original file, which can fluctuate just like other types of crypto currency and like a piece of physical art. So don't be right-clicking to save the image we've posted, as it is worth diddly-squat.
As Beeple said in the reaction video above, this explosive auction clearly means "digital art is here to stay". We wonder how many of these top digital artists will be jumping onboard.
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