“But what do I buy, if I buy an NFT? »: In Miami, virtual art becomes real

Par stéphanie chayet

Posted today at 5:00 a.m.

Wednesday 1is December. It’s the VIP day at the Art Basel Miami fair, back after his 2020 eclipse due to a pandemic. It’s not yet noon, but collectors are already unleashed like moiré butterflies in the American seaside resort. A photographer from street style tries to capture those who throng to the Bass Museum to attend “Art in the Age of NFT”, a conversation moderated by art collector and dealer Adam Lindemann.

Inside, heels ticking, silky dresses, well-cut suits. More unexpected: a “crypto babe” T-shirt, tattoos, caps, jeans with holes. The museum invited a legend, Peter Saul, one of the last contemporaries of pop art, but it is not for him that the room is full. We come to see the surprise star of 2021: Mike Winkelmann, alias Beeple.

A first work sold for $ 69.3 million

Still unknown to the art world last year, this 40-year-old American graphic designer is today the third most expensive living artist after Jeff Koons and David Hockney. On March 11, in a market hampered by the cancellation of fairs and the immobility of collectors, his work Everydays : the First 5000 Days, assembling 5,000 digital images of his creation, was auctioned online for $ 69.3 million to two Indian billionaires in Singapore.

Artist Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, at Art Basel Miami. In March, the work of this American graphic designer, assembling 5,000 digital images, was auctioned online for $ 69.3 million.

What they bought at that price was not so much the file of this infinitely reproducible work as a digital certificate of ownership whose authenticity is verified by blockchain technology: the famous NFT, or ” non fungible token ”, in French. Blockchains, as we know, are databases that keep the unfalsifiable trace of the adventures of intangible goods. Humans, it is discovered, are capable of attaching themselves to virtual objects if they are guaranteed ownership.

In the artistic field, this allows genres that are difficult to monetize – digital art, but also part of conceptual or performance art – to expand their market. As summed up by the young employee of Christie’s who handled this historic sale, “There is a before- and an after-Beeple as there is a before- and an after-Jesus Christ”.

Read also Digital artwork sells for $ 69.3 million at Christie’s, the upset art market

Works of the interested party scroll in slideshow mode during the discussion. We see Abraham Lincoln spanking a stripped-down Donald Trump, Tom Hanks struggling with a giant coronavirus, Ronald Reagan decked out in breasts. Haired like Riquet with a tassel, Winkelmann says he began to create digital images during his computer studies, a daily practice that he never gave up despite working full-time for ” pay the bills “. Over the years, his fan club has grown on Instagram – reaching 2.3 million subscribers, five times more than Jeff Koons.

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“But what do I buy, if I buy an NFT? »: In Miami, virtual art becomes real