For me, the technology behind how this has happened is incredible, however as a creative myself, Beeple’s back story is super inspiring. For many, who haven’t heard of Beeple, this may have come out of nowhere, an unknown suddenly making it big. But Beeple has been building up to this for years.
On May 1st 2007 Beeple posted his first piece of everyday digital art online. For him it was just part of his own personal development, learning new software and crafting his creative skills as he continued to work as a digital designer during the day on more corporate client based work. This was just a way for him to explore his creative side, and be free to create stills and animation without rules or guidelines. Everyday since that date he’s posted a new piece of digital art, never skipping a day, never creating more than one piece in a day. Everyday, means everyday, during holidays, birthdays, even on the days his children were born, spending anywhere from 5 minutes to a few hours on each piece, and usually after a full days work. Over time his work became more noticed, building up to having over 2 million followers on Instagram, creating concert visuals for Justin Bieber, One Direction, Katy Perry, Deadmau5 and many more, and working for corporate clients like Louis Vuitton, Space X, Apple, Nike, and Adobe, in fact you name them, he’s probably worked for them.
Thirteen and a half years later, his discipline in creating the everydays, and love for digital art has resulted in those first 5000 pieces, being brought together as one giant piece of bizarre, hilarious and some would say disturbing art, entitled: ‘Everydays: The first 5000 days’ and selling at Christie’s for over $69 million. For some that seems a crazy number for what is essentially a giant jpg. There’s no physical print, no framed piece you can hang on your wall. Just pixels on a screen, 100% digital, and the new owner has the original and complete ownership of it. But, surely you can just copy it, duplicate it, re-post it 10,000 times on Insta? Well yes, you can, and obviously this piece is all over the Internet, so what have they actually bought? Well that’s where the technology comes in, why this has been labelled ‘crypto art’, and why a price tag, however wild, can be placed on digital items. And the answer behind all of that, is blockchain.
Blockchain is the backbone of crypto currencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin (which you can now use to buy our services here at PinPoint by the way! #shamelessplug) It’s a way of recording information so that it’s near impossible to change, hack or cheat the system. Essentially it’s like a digital spreadsheet that retains data added to it, but it isn’t in one central location, it’s copied across entire networks of computer systems. Digital art in itself can’t be added to a blockchain, however a ‘token’ with all the information about that art can be. This token is called an NFT – a ‘non fungible token’, and it’s this that makes the Ethereum blockchain so great. It uses that token to authenticate and identify a single, unique item, in this case, digital art. And that means you can prove ownership.
So yes, anyone can view it on Instagram, but using blockchain to prove ownership, suddenly makes it collectible. And that is where the value and worth comes in, just like any piece of physical art, if there’s a uniqueness, a ‘one of a kind’ to something, then it can be collectable. Whether it will be or not depends on so many different factors though, not least popularity of the artist, or how big your social following is. Personally, I have so much respect for Beeple, he’s been doing this for years, creating original, unique digital art, that’s why i think his pieces will always be profitable NFT’s, however in a world where any social media influencer with a few million followers can knock something out, register it as an NFT, and sell it instantly for $1000’s, thats where i think the bubble is eventually going to burst. In the world of social media, fame can be temporary, in 50 years time, will people be buying NFT’s that Youtuber Logan Paul had someone else create? Or will they be fighting over a unique piece of art by the likes of Beeple, Grimes or WhIsBe? But don’t get me wrong, i think the opportunities behind NFT’s are endless, and maybe this is just the beginning of seeing digital art turn into a multi-trillion dollar industry.
As for this particular sale, I’ve heard that one of the buyers of Beeple’s everyday art, was an early investor in Ethereum, the crypto thats behind the surge in NFT’s and digital art being sold, so maybe this is one massive marketing campaign, indeed everyone is talking about digital art and NFTs, and the more popular it is, the more digital items will be worth. It will be interesting to see where it all goes over the next few years, will the popularity of Etherium and NFT’s continue to soar, or will the bubble burst seeing prices plummet? Time will tell, but whatever happens it’s safe to say that creative digital art and video is certainly here to stay.