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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Explained: Who is Beeple, the digital artist whose work recently sold for $29 million?

Last week, Beeple made his debut in an auction with a physical work, 'Human One'. Accompanied by an NFT, it sold for $29 million at a Christie's auction.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 18, 2021 7:54:53 am
Beeple, beeple art, digital art beeple, beeple christie's, NFTs in art, famous digital artists, express explained, indian express, most expensive digital art work'Human One', and its creator Beeple, or Michael Winkelmann. (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

When Beeple’ “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” sold for $69.34 million at a Christie’s auction in March 2021, it generated interest not just because it was the third most expensive artwork sold by a living artist, but also because it was the first purely digital work offered by a major auction house.

Last week, the American artist made his debut in an auction with a physical work, “Human One”, a seven-foot-tall sculpture with LED screens with an astronaut walking around. Accompanied by a nonfungible token (NFT), it sold for $29 million to a Swiss buyer at a Christie’s auction.

We look at the rise of the leading digital artist and some of his major projects.

Who is Beeple?

Born in 1981, Beeple’s birth name is Michael Winkelmann. While he grew up in Wisconsin, he completed his graduation from Purdue University in 2003, majoring in computer science. A graphic designer who designed corporate websites and is now based in Charleston, Beeple began his first big self-initiated project in 2007, creating and posting a piece of digital art, from start to finish, every day.

While the first year was all drawings, he later moved to digital art created with programmes such as Cinema 4D and Octane. The depictions range from political commentary to abstracts and satires. He did not miss a single day, including his wedding and the birth of his two sons. The work produced in the first 5,000 days comprised “Everydays”, which sold at Christie’s for $69.34 million.

When did he come in the limelight?

Even before Beeple entered the mainstream art circuit, he did freelance projects for companies that work on live events such as MTV VMAs and the Super Bowl. He has created concert visuals for performing artists such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Childish Gambino, Nicki Minaj and Shakira. His clients include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Apple.

While his short films have been screened at Miami Art Basel, Prix Ars Electronica, Sydney Biennale and Ann Arbor Film Festival, his designs have featured on Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2019 apparel collection in Paris Fashion Week October 2018. More recently, his NFTs were included in the game Louis: The game.

Beeple in the art circuit

In October 2020, Beeple sold his first series of NFTs, with a pair going for $66,666.66 each. In December 2020, his series of works sold for a total of $3.5 million. Then, in February 2021, one of his first NFT art, which sold for $66,666.66, was resold for $6.6 million. Earlier this month, “Everydays” was exhibited at the first NFT festival, Dreamverse, in New York. Beeple was also ranked number 1 on Fortune’s recent NFTy 50 list.

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