A JPG file made by a digital artist known as Beeple sold Thursday for almost $70 million by Christie's auction house. That price set a new record for the increasingly popular market for digital-only art — and makes Beeple's piece the third most-expensive work sold by a living artist at auction, according to a statement by Christie's.
The artwork, a digital collage called "Everydays — The First Five Thousand Days," is what's known as an NFT, or nonfungible token. NFTs signal ownership and authenticity of digital works of art by recording the sale through blockchain technology.
Blockchains record cryptocurrency transactions; the records can be shared but not duplicated.
"Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20 plus years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it," Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, said in a statement Thursday. "I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art."
The South Carolina graphic designer made "Everydays" by posting a new work of art online every day for 5000 days, a project he began in 2007. He then stitched those images together to complete the piece.
The sale signals a new milestone for the expanding NFT market, which has seen other high-profile transactions such as the sale of Nyan Cat, a popular meme from 2011 that features an animated flying cat.
That piece, created by Chris Torres, sold for nearly $600,000 in an online auction last month on the crypto art platform Foundation. NFTs, including Nyan Cat, are often bought using the cryptocurrency Ethereum.
Another work by Beeple, Crossroad, sold for $6.6 million last month on Nifty Gateway, another online marketplace.
The sale of a purely digital NFT work is a first for Christie's, a step that brings further legitimacy to the emerging form of digital originals.
Until last year, Beeple was selling art for as little as $100. But with the sale of "Everyday," his work may be some of the most valuable in the art world today — that is, until another NFT tops this price.