In a story seemingly designed to give us a splitting headache from like four different angles at once, The New York Times reports tonight on a record-setting sale by Christie’s auction house, as a JPG titled Everydays—The First 5000 Days, by the digital artist Beeple, became the highest-selling digital artwork of all time. After a flurry of last-minute bids, the artwork—consisting of a collage of 5000 images Beeple (real name Matt Winkelmann) has made, one-a-day, for the last several years—sold for a reported $69 million. Which: Nice. But also: Gah, our heads.
And, look: If you thought you were going to get out of a Newswire about rampant digital art speculation in 2021 without reading the word “fungible,” your optimism is about to be sorely tested. Because Everydays is, indeed, backed up by an NFT (non-fungible token), the blockchain-backed crypto-certification that ensures that your incredibly expensive JPG of an image that literally anyone could send to anybody is the real incredibly expensive JPG of an image that literally anyone could send to anybody, because someone poured god knows how much electricity into a bunch of graphics cards to prove it.
(This concludes the part of the Newswire where we pretend to know what a blockchain is; you are now safe to move around the cabin freely.)
Among other things, this makes Everydays the third-most expensive piece of art ever sold whose artist was still alive, clocking in only behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney in that particular race. It’s also likely to spur both increased speculation and criticism of the digital art boom, which, like every single other art boom in the history of mankind, is likely to make a couple of artists rich, a greater number of speculators very rich, and a whole bunch of other people left in a category typically known as “completely hosed.” Except at least those fads didn’t also force us to think about groups like Burnt Banksy, which recently sold the NFT for a digital version of Banksy’s physical piece Morons, which they also, uh, burnt, so that only the digital version remained. The digital Morons sold for ten times what was paid for the now-destroyed physical version, and, yeah, okay, there it is. There’s the headache. Come in for a landing, little guy. We’re ready to feel our skulls explode.