Van Gogh, Monet—And Beeple? As NFTs Exploded One Of The Most Expensive Art Pieces Sold In 2021 Was Entirely Digital.

Author image

Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

Van Gogh, Monet—And Beeple? As NFTs Exploded One Of The Most Expensive Art Pieces Sold In 2021 Was Entirely Digital.

Photo: Christies website

“Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” a piece of digital artwork, finds itself alongside paintings made by the likes of Picasso, Rothko, van Gogh and Monet as one of the most expensive art pieces sold at an auction in 2021, a year when non-fungible tokens (NFTs) garnered mainstream attention and emerged as one of the hottest tech trends.

KEY FACTS

- Made by the 41-year old artist, Mike Winkelmann—better known as Beeple—the digital art was sold in the form of an NFT for $69.3 million, becoming the most expensive piece of digital art to go under the hammer.

- Christie’s—the auction house that sold Beeple’s artwork—announced last week that it has sold NFTs worth $150 million in 2021.

- In simple terms, an NFT is a type of unique or non-replicable digital token that is registered on a blockchain—the same decentralized technology used by cryptocurrencies—that can be used as a record or authenticate the ownership of assets both in the digital and physical world.

- This has meant that everyone from celebritiesthe NBAMarvel Comics and even video game makers have jumped on board the NFT bandwagon as mainstream interest in digital collectible items surged.

- According to Google Trends data, search interest in the term “NFT” spiked briefly in March and April before hitting its currently ongoing surge in August and a similar trend can also be seen for the phrase “how to buy NFT.”

BIG NUMBER

$23 billion. That’s the total value of all NFT sales that took place in the past year, according to data published by DappRadar. In comparison, total NFT sales in 2020 were worth less than $100 million.

SURPRISING FACT

NFT was declared as 2021’s “Word of the Year” by Collin’s English Dictionary last month, as it beat out the likes of “crypto” and “cheugy” to claim the top spot.

TANGENT

While NFT-based art pieces—like the ones made by Beeple—grabbed the bulk of the headlines in early 2021, a majority of interest in NFTs was driven by digital collectibles. Similar to rare Pokemon or baseball trading cards projects like Cryptopunks offered thousands of unique digital collectibles with varying degrees of “rarity.” One particular collection that gained a lot of attention online was the Bored Ape Yacht Club which is made up of a collection of 10,000 NFT-based avatars. Owners of these cartoon ape avatars, which cost a minimum of $210,000, include celebrities like Post Malone, Steph Curry, Jimmy Fallon and DJ Khaled. Owners of the expensive digital asset have received exclusive invites to meetups in California, New York, Hong Kong and several other places. These meetups have included an actual yacht party in New York and a concert featuring the likes of  Chris Rock, Aziz Ansari and The Strokes. 

CONTRA

As their popularity surged in the past year, NFT also emerged at the center of several controversies including accusations of art theft and their potential environmental impacts. A majority of NFTs rely on the “proof-of-work” blockchain Ethereum, which keeps a record of NFT  transactions through a process called mining. Environmental advocates have warned that mining, which relies on a decentralized network of computers around the world, consumes a significant amount of energy that can lead to a rise in carbon emissions. Another controversy around the technology has involved the theft of digital art where original creators are not attributed. Several illustrators and artists who host their content online have complained that their work is being turned into NFTs without their consent or any attribution.

Author image

Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018.