Beeple Mania: How Mike Winkelmann Makes Millions Selling Pixels #ArtTuesday #NFTs
Mike Winkelmann is a dad from Wisconsin who drives a “piece of shit” Corolla. And his brilliantly absurd artwork, under the name Beeple, has made him the face of a crypto market you didn’t know existed.
Beeple is an artist.
He makes digital art—pixels on screens depicting bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, and sometimes grotesque images. He smashes together pop culture, technology, and post apocalyptic terror into blistering commentaries on the way we live. A recent frame depicted Donald Trump wearing a leather mask and stripper’s pasties, taking a whip to the coronavirus bug (title: “Trump Dominating Covid”). On the day Jeff Bezos announced he was kicking himself upstairs, Beeple imagined the Amazon founder as a massive, threatening octopus emerging from the ocean as military helicopters circled above (“Release the Bezos”).
Beeple has 1.8 million Instagram followers. His work has been shown at two Super Bowl halftime shows and at least one Justin Bieber concert, but he has no gallery representation or foothold in the traditional art world.
And yet in December the first extensive auction of his art grossed $3.5 million in a single weekend.
Why would someone pay $777,777 for an MP4? Couldn’t you watch that on Instagram for free?
Theoretically, yes, but the crypto art scene uses blockchain technology to authenticate and identify a single, unique piece of digital art. To understand how that piece of art sells for the price of a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, one needs a brief primer on something called nonfungible tokens, or NFTs—digital goods that are bought and sold on emerging websites like Nifty Gateway.
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