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A JPG File Just Sold for $69M

Digital collage by Beeple fetches third-highest amount for a living artist at Christie's
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2021 1:55 PM CST

(Newser) – The Verge begins its coverage of this art sale by noting that artist Mike Winkelmann, who goes by Beeple, had never sold a print for more than $100 before October. On Thursday, he sold a piece for $69.3 million, the third largest amount for a living artist, notes Vice. Winklemann is a digital artist, and this was no ordinary sale at Christie's auction house. The work is called “Everydays—The First 5000 Days," and it is a collage of images Winkelmann has been posting online daily since 2007, per the New York Times. The piece does not have a physical presence, notes NBC News. Instead, it is a JPG file, one that was "minted" as what's known as a nonfungible token, or NFT, last month. The unidentified new owner paid for it in the cryptocurrency called ethereum, and ownership will be recorded on the ethereum blockchain. It is, not surprisingly, a record NFT price.

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“On the one hand, it’s super exciting to witness a historical inflection point,” art adviser Todd Levin tells the Times. “On the other hand, the amount of money involved could skew and damage a nascent emerging market.” With NFTs, buyers are typically buying "bragging rights," per the Verge, though they could sell the asset later. The digital work will be "delivered directly from Beeple to the buyer, accompanied by a unique NFT encrypted with the artist’s unforgeable signature and uniquely identified on the blockchain," Christie's says. A flurry of last-minute bids drove the price from a mind-boggling $30 million to the even more mind-boggling final price. Among living artists, only Jeff Koons and David Hockney have sold anything for a higher price. (Another high-profile NFT—Jack Dorsey's first tweet—is currently up for auction.)

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