A digital collage by the American artist Beeple, a pioneer of the exploding virtual art market, sold for a record $69.3 million, Christie's announced Thursday.
"Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" is now the most expensive "non-fungible token" piece ever sold, a sign of longterm confidence in the burgeoning market that creates collectible digital assets by transforming virtual work into something ownable.
Beeple -- an artist from Charleston, South Carolina, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann -- is now among the top three most valuable living artists, Christie's said.
"Everydays" is based on a long-term project: beginning on May 1, 2007, when he was still a bored web designer, he sought to create a work of art each day, without interruption, in order to progress in drawing and graphic design.
Now, 5,062 consecutive days later, "Everydays" brings together in digital form his first 5,000 pieces, beginning with a simple image of his Uncle Jim and ending on a detailed graphic portrait of characters from Donald Trump to Buzz Lightyear to Michael Jackson, depicted as dystopian muses around a child drawing.
Since 2007 Beeple has accumulated nearly two million Instagram followers and collaborated with major brands and famous musicians, attracted by his graphic universe.
But he had never sold any work under his own name until recently, when a new technology catapulted him into orbit as one of the most fashionable artists in the world.
NFTs are collectible digital assets that use blockchain technology to turn virtual work into something unique, with a documented provenance that cannot be altered, guaranteeing authenticity and making the work ownable.
That goes for pretty much anything on the internet where, previously, content by its nature was easy to duplicate.
At the end of February another of his works, "Crossroads," was resold for $6.6 million on the platform Nifty Gateway, which specializes in virtual works. Beeple received 10 percent.
And an animation that he himself had sold at the end of October last year for a symbolic dollar was recently acquired for $150,000.