Key learning points
- Renowned digital artist Beeple sold his ‘HUMAN ONE’ sculpture for nearly $29 million at Christie’s last night, crushing many estimates.
- The piece features a 7-foot-tall astronaut dressed in a mirrored helmet and a silvery suit who appears to be walking through sci-fi landscapes.
- Many other prominent artists such as Damien Hirst, Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat had pieces sold at auction. Some pieces were payable using cryptocurrency.
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Towards the end of the auction, six-figure bidding began to feel dull and tame.
Beeple gets real
Last night, one of the most valuable living artists in art auction history, Beeple, sold ‘HUMAN ONE’ for $28,985,000 in Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale. Sales far exceeded expectations of $15 million. The auction was a live event in New York City, but bidders from around the world were represented.
The event, which was livestreamed, featured 40 lots of art, and Beeple’s’Human,’ a 7 meter high sculpture and the accompanying NFT, was the seventh lot. The auctioneer explained how long the piece had been anticipated and that the bidding reached $15 million in seconds, given a major bidding war between someone in the room and someone online from Switzerland. In the end, $25 million was the winning bid Protected by Ryan Zurrer of Dialectics. After deducting fees and taxes from the auctioneer, the price tag is $28,985,000.
The life-size astronaut slowly spins around and appears to walk through the sci-fi landscapes it is set in. Beeple told Christie’s, the 255-year-old auction house, that he had plans to update the piece “fairly regularly”, going so far as to say that the owner of this piece “don’t really know what they’re getting because I keep changing it.”
Peter Doig’s ‘Swamped’ grossed $39,862,500. Some other NFTs were sold and some pieces had to be paid for via cryptocurrencies Ether and/or Bitcoin. The last piece to be auctioned was a video (with audio) with an accompanying NFT, which cost $420,000.
Beeple (Michael Winkelmann) caused a stir in March this year when his NFT “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” sold for 69.3 million in an online-only sale that saw some 22 million website visitors witness the end of the sale. This piece was a collage of every image Beeple posted online daily since 2007, and this exalted time component was quoted by the auction winner as the primary motivation for the purchase. This was arguably a turning point in NFT, the art history that set the stage for the NFT summer craze.
Beeple received payment for that sale in Ethereum (42,329,453 ETH), and if he hadn’t sold it for US dollars, it would be worth about 2.5 times more today than it was in March. Speaking of NFTs more broadly, Beeple told Christie’s, “It feels like really new work is being born through this technology, through this movement.”
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, the author of this feature owned BTC, ETH, and several other cryptocurrencies.
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