Who is Beeple, the artist behind Christie's NFT auction? We talk with him. : Planet Money An artist called Beeple just sold a piece at Christie's for millions. But it wasn't a painting... it was a kind of crypto. We speak with him and the others behind the first NFT auction. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
NPR logo

The $69 Million JPEG

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/976513031/976749404" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The $69 Million JPEG

The $69 Million JPEG

The $69 Million JPEG

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/976513031/976749404" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Beeple's "Everydays" collage sold for $69 million at auction NPR hide caption

toggle caption
NPR

Beeple's "Everydays" collage sold for $69 million at auction

NPR

Mike Winkelmann, a digital artist and graphic designer known as Beeple, was trying to find a better way to sell his art. He had thousands of works that he had produced over the past 13 years for his popular "Everydays" series, but there was a problem. The art market, made up of galleries and auction houses that dictate the value of creative works, was not an avenue through which he could do so for a simple reason: Digital art can be infinitely reproduced, making the works worthless.

So when his friends told him that there was a way to change that, a way to label his illustrations as unique, singular pieces of art, Winklemann listened. He started looking into what are called "non-fungible tokens."

Non-fungible tokens or NFTs have been a growing craze in the digital world. Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs are run on blockchains, digital ledgers that create an authentication of ownership. But unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether, NFTs are designed to be unique assets. And the idea is that scarcity is what creates value.

Because of this, artists have been flocking towards NFT markets as they search for greater success outside the conventional art world, Winklemann included. The result? The price for a Beeple NFT exploded. Before he knew it, Winklemann was making millions off of sales and resales of his art. And the traditional art market also took notice. They really took notice. Yesterday, an NFT of Beeple's "Everydays" sold at Christie's for $69 million.

Today on the show, how the blockchain broke the auction block.

Music: "Entrepreneurs," "8 Bit Dubtrap," and "Android Dancehall."

Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / TikTok

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and NPR One.

Looking for unconventional economic news? Subscribe to the Newsletter.