If there's anything that has truly taken the tech world by storm over the past year, it's NFTs (non-fungible tokens). This digital trend made headlines last March when Beeple's Everydays sold for an eye-watering US$69.3 million (S$93.2 million). Some of the most expensive NFT artworks that have ever been sold are produced by Beeple or Larva Labs, another early entrant in the scene.
NFT artworks share some attributes with physical artworks in terms of creativity and aesthetics. However, the key difference is that being NFTs, they are simply a code — digital art that exists only on the Internet.
The NFT boom has also spawned some fascinating creations. An example is REPLICATOR by Canadian artist Mad Dog Jones (whose real name is Michah Dowbak), an NFT comprising a still image and video depicting a photocopier machine. The project is designed to self-replicate every 28 days and, like the photocopier it features, is expected to "jam" occasionally and spawn artworks with variations.
According to its seller — art auction house Phillips — REPLICATOR is an “NFT experience comprising seven unique generations of artworks.” The work sold for US$4.1 million (S$5.5 million) in April 2021, making Mad Dog Jones the most expensive living Canadian artist.
The prices of NFT sales of artworks have continued to skyrocket. A quick look at sales figures reveals that all the highest-priced NFT artworks were bought in 2021, even though some were created around four years ago.
Evidently, the NFT art market has just started to flourish, and leaves more room for growth in the coming years. Below are some of the world's most expensive NFT artworks ever sold.
10 of the most expensive NFT artworks ever sold
The Merge: US$91.8 million
Created by an anonymous artist who goes by the pseudonym Pak, The Merge was sold on NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway between 2 and 4 December 2021. It fetched a record sum of US$91.8 million (approx. S$123.6 million) — making it the most expensive NFT ever sold that is an artwork.
Instead of a single owner, The Merge is held by 28,983 collectors. This is because the artwork was sold in units known as ‘mass’. The collectors bought a total of 266,445 masses by the time the sale ended on 4 December.
Each ‘mass’ cost US$575 when the sale began. The price of the tokens went up by US$25 every six hours.
Everydays – The First 5000 Days: US$69.3 million
Acclaimed digital artist Mike Winklemann, better known as Beeple, created a record when his single piece artwork titled Everydays – The First 5000 Days sold for US$69.3 million (approx. S$93.3 million) at a Christie’s auction on 11 March 2021. Therefore, it is the most expensive NFT sale recorded for an artwork by Beeple.
The artwork is so named because it is a collage of 5,000 individual images made one per day over more than thirteen years from 2007 to 2020 by Beeple.
It was the first purely digital NFT-based artwork offered by a major auction house. Following the sale, Christie’s said Beeple now ranked among the “top three most valuable living artists.”
Its buyer, MetaKovan, later revealed as crypto investor Vignesh Sundaresan, called it “a steal” while talking to The New York Times.
The costliest single-piece NFT artwork, Everydays – The First 5000 Days, is credited by many as the sale that started the NFT boom through 2021. It also catapulted Beeple and his works into an even bigger league, with collaborations with Nike and Katy Perry.
Human One: US$28.9 million
On 9 November 2021, Beeple had his second-most successful NFT artwork sale. At an auction hosted by Christie’s, the American artist’s creation, Human One, went under the hammer for US$28.9 million (approx. S$38.9 million). The buyer was Swiss entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ryan Zurrer.
Human One is remarkably different from Everydays: The First 5,000 Days — the former is a hybrid digital and physical artwork, whereas the latter does not physically exist.
Beeple created a futuristic human-like sculpture, which was seven feet tall and appears to be perpetually walking across ever-changing landscapes. The 3D movement is presented through four video screens of 16K resolution, which come together to form a 4x4-feet box.
According to Christie’s, the kinetic video sculpture came with dual media servers and had a polished aluminium metal, mahogany wood frame.
Speaking to Christie’s head of digital sales Noah Davis, Beeple said, “We had a bunch of TVs on rollers in our studio and were rolling them around in different shapes and patterns. Then I was like: ‘We should roll them into a little box unit.’…We immediately realised that this configuration of screens was a powerful canvas — anything we put on it looked awesome.”
Human One was sold with a corresponding dynamic NFT, which was minted on 28 October 2021. The unique feature of the work is that Beeple will continue to have remote access and creative control over it. This means that the artist can change the creative elements, such as the landscape, as long as he is alive.
“The Physical Element is designed to continuously display the Artwork. Beeple will maintain remote access to the Physical Element to ensure proper functionality and/or enhance the displayed Artwork. Beeple warrants that the Physical Element does not contain any features designed to impair the continuous display of the Artwork,” Christie’s said in its description of Human One.
CryptoPunk #7523: US$11.75 million
Launched in 2017, CryptoPunks are among the earliest and most sought-after tokens in the NFT space. They are the brainchild of Larva Labs, a tech studio founded by Canadian developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson.
CryptoPunks essentially comprises 10,000 tokens called ‘punks’ by their creators and collectors. Often considered the OG NFT collection, each is a collectible character — much like a trading card. No two ‘punks’ are the same, which makes each CryptoPunk an exclusive item.
On 10 June 2021, CryptoPunk #7523 was sold for US$11.75 million (approx. S$15.8 million) at a Sotheby’s auction, making it the most expensive ‘punk’ of all the collections. #7523 is one of the nine in the Alien series of the collection.
The bluish-green-skinned character wears a knitted cap and earrings, too. It is also the only Alien character and one of the 175 in the collection with a medical mask.
According to Reuters, Sotheby’s revealed the token was bought by Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Meckenzie — the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings.
CryptoPunk #3100: US$7.58 million
On the same day Beeple created history, a crypto art, known as CryptoPunk #3100, was sold for US$7.58 million (approx. S$10.2 million). Like #7523, the #3100 is also one of the nine Alien ‘punks’. It has bluish-green skin and just one other feature — a white-and-blue headband. Only 406 out of 10,000 in the collection wear a headband and only 333 have just one attribute.
At the time of its sale, CryptoPunk #3100 was the highest-priced ‘punk’, beating the record set by #7804 a day before by just a whisker.
It has been in the news for some time because of its listed price. According to Larva Labs, it is currently up for sale for US$109.87 million (approx. S$148 million). If realised, it would become the highest-priced NFT in history.
CryptoPunk #7804: US$7.57 million
The ‘punk’, which looks more like Sherlock Holmes with shades, is another of the nine Aliens among the 10,000. On 10 March 2021, it made news for fetching US$7.57 million (approx. S$10.2 million) for its seller, Figma CEO Dylan Field, who had dubbed it his “digital Mona Lisa.”
The pipe-smoking character wears small shades and is one of the 254 who wears their cap forward. Unlike #3100, the #7804 is not up for sale.
Right-click and Save As guy: US$7.09 million
Xcopy is the pseudonym of a London-based crypto artist whose works are one of the most in-demand across marketplaces. According to The Crypto Times, Xcopy, who is known for his dystopian- and death-themed works, has sold over 1,900 artworks.
The Right-click and Save As guy is the name of an NFT artwork created by the artist as a joke on those who think that NFTs are worthless because they can simply be right-clicked and downloaded.
The artwork shows a character wearing large shades and a hoodie. Its red-tinted lips are constantly moving, as if its mumbling something.
Right-click and Save As guy was sold on the SuperRare marketplace for US$7.08 million (approx. S$9.5 million) in early December 2021. It was bought by the user known online as ‘Cozomo de Medici’, who has a vast storehouse of NFT digital collectibles.
Some speculate that ‘Cozomo de Medici’ is the alias of rapper Snoop Dogg. Even though the American celebrity admitted that he is the man behind the identity, it has not been independently verified.
Ringers 109: US$6.9 million
Ringers #109 is an artwork by Art Blocks, which is a project that creates loops around pegs using an algorithm. The artwork can be a 3D image, an interactive feature, or a static picture.
Ringers #109 is a static image of a series of loops around multiple pegs. The dominant colour is black on a white background. The balanced wrap orientation, the loop and the white background are three very rare attributes in Art Blocks’ creations. The rarest is, however, a red peg — the colour is present in just 0.3 percent of its tokens.
The NFT was sold for US$6.9 million (approx. S$9.3 million) in October 2021 — a record price for Art Blocks. It is not clear who bought the NFT but according to The Crypto Times, the seller was AKIRA, co-founder of NarcissusGLRY, who revealed the sale on Twitter.
According to AKIRA, the NFT was bought by them for US$550 (approx. S$ 740) in March 2021.
A Coin for the Ferryman: US$6.01 million
One of the earliest works by Xcopy, A Coin for the Ferryman was sold on SuperRare for US$6.01 million (approx. S$8.1 million) on 4 November 2021.
The artwork is a GIF, showing constantly changing expressions on a person’s face. It was minted by Xcopy on 20 April 2018.
At the time, it was bought by a user named @0xclipse for US$139 (approx. S$187). In 2019, it was transferred to a user named @electricmeat who eventually sold it on SuperRare to the current owner @jpeggy.
Ocean Front: US$6 million
Beeple’s Ocean Front is much more than one of the most expensive NFT artworks. It is a telling reminder to the world of the impending disaster that unchecked climate change is set to bring.
The artwork is part of Beeple’s “Everydays” series. It shows a series of trailers and containers stacked upon each other on a platform in the middle of an ocean. At the top of the dystopian man-made objects is a tree, underneath which mushrooms can be seen growing.
The artwork was bought on 23 March 2021 following intense bidding on Nifty Gateway by Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of the Tron Foundation, for US$6 million (approx. S$8.08 million). Beeple himself announced the winner and the winning bid on Twitter.
Following the transaction, Sun tweeted that proceeds from the sale will go to Open Earth Foundation, an NGO working to tackle climate change.
(Main image: Pak/@muratpak/Twitter; featured image: XCopy)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore