Inspection of one of the most valuable living artist.
Dominating the digital art sphere is none other than Mike Winklemann, better known as the infamous Beeple. Amassing an incredible following of 1.8 million followers on Instagram alone, the artist continues to generate extensive publicity for the use of cryptocurrency in the digital art world. A South Carolina Native, Beeple embodies the gracious wit and charm of the Southern states with his overmodest attitude towards his work. Work, however, is recognized by major players known to be at the forefront of innovation such as Space X, Apple and Sony Pictures.
Tenacious in his drive, Beeple works as a 3D artist and is one of the originators of the ‘Everyday’ project. Since the first of May in 2007, he has been creating and finishing one piece of artwork every day which he posts online without fail. Often post-apocalyptic and sometimes sanguinary, Winklemann admits in his first-ever talk with FITC Toronto that the process of creating these pieces is a testament to the dedication artists have to sometimes learn towards their craft. Winklemann explains that these ‘Everydays’ aren’t just for skill improvement or to weed out concepts with limited potential, but as an exemplar that “the beginning of a project is often the most productive” and in having to produce something every day, it gets easier to develop this work ethic.
In his FITC talk, as well as many of the live conferences, Winklemann is adamant in persuading the audience that despite the massive cult following in the digital art scene he’s still a run-of-the-mill sort of guy. When talking to Christie’s, describes that the ‘everydays’ he creates take about two hours in general and follows an approach that is very much a “run and gun, gotta get it done”. Choosing from a wide-ranging portfolio of different 3D models, Winklemann creates these science-fiction depictions of giant mutant Mickey Mouse zombies and caricatures of a naked Donald Trump wreaking havoc in a surrealist dystopia.
By featuring Beeple in this major British auction house, Christie’s forefronts itself as an eager campaigner for the future of digital art. Iconic as a traditional establishment, the auction house proudly boasts the digital collage as a non-fungible token (NFT) which is a huge stride in recognizing the significance of cryptocurrency and blockchain in the art world. Running from the 25th of February to the 11th of March, features "The first 5000 days of Beeple’s Everyday" project. On the 11th of March it sold online for $69,346,250 and it made him one of the top three most valuable living artists.
Courtesy of Christies, 2021
It is not the first time that Christie’s has endeavoured to pounce upon the opportunities of crypto art as a piece by Robert Alice was sold and with it, an NFT, once again highlighting the growing interest in the potential for the crypto market. Likewise, Beeple’s work with animation is recognized by a range of different artists from Kanye to the infamous Flying Lotus, an American record producer responsible for the trippy sounds of IDM and notably the bumper music to Cartoon Network’s Adultswim. More recently his work is recognized by L. A producer Scott Glassgold (involved in Game of Thrones and Narcos) and is looking towards promoting a TV pitch based on Beeple’s work with the writer of Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots.
The art style of Beeple is often surrealist and completely bizarre but has since been increasingly influenced also by the theatricalities of the current US political climate. Winklemann seems to enjoy constructing these incredibly absurdist realities of giant mega morphed political figures and it is genuinely refreshing to see that not only is his work focused on bringing up the uncanny but also taking on a satirical stance on very much real issues and current events.
Just a few days ago Beeple devised an NFT raffle involving the opportunity for people to buy $1 tickets to potentially claim one of 105 editions of his artwork on the digital art website Makersplace. It resulted in overwhelming traffic, causing the site to crash which showcases the sheer power of Beeple’s influence. One of the pieces then resold for around $6.6 million on Nifty Gateway (another digital art site) and Makersplace has since apologized for the crash and explained that as a consequence only a few pieces from Beeple were actually purchased.
The hype for digital art, particularly the weird and wonderful creations of Winklemann's demonstrates a potential preference in the art community towards scenes of post-humanism and satire. Often criticized for the means in the way digital art is produced from less traditional forms such as painting or drawing, digital art and especially crypto art is opening up the accessibility of creation as everything can be composed digitally.
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