For some art critics it is “Vulgar internet kitsch” and “infantile amusement”. What is meant is the digital work of art “Everydays: the First 5000 Days”, which brings together 5,000 individual works previously published on the Internet as a collage. Its creator, the American Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, should be able to live well with the criticism of his work. After all, the picture was auctioned by Christie’s auction house in March 2021 for more than $ 69 million. This makes it the third most expensive work of art by a living artist that has ever been auctioned at a public auction.
But what is really remarkable is not the actual work with its crude sex jokes and political statements that barely get beyond the realm of knowledge that Donald Trump probably wasn’t a good president. The purchase price can also only surprise to a limited extent. It is high, but the art market has been highly speculative for decades and in the end a work has exactly the value that someone is willing to pay for it. What is actually interesting about all of this, however, is that at Christie’s it was not the work of art in the actual sense that was auctioned, but a Non-Fungible Token (NFT for short).
Over the past year, collectors have repeatedly spent ridiculous amounts of money on NFT. In addition to Winkelmann, it was above all the crypto startup Larva Labs, behind which the two software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson are. Under the name Cryptopunks, the two published exactly 10,000 algorithmically generated pixel faces as NFT in 2017. While the 10,000 little pictures were able to turn over a total of almost 866,000 US dollars within the first three years, sales with the cryptopunks reached the value of 55 million dollars within just 24 hours at the height of the NFT hype at the end of July 2021. In fact, three of the ten most expensive NFTs come from the Hall and Watkinson series of images.
Also represented in the ranks of the ten most expensive NFTs of all time are the original WWW source code by Tim Berners-Lee, a graphically prepared collection of court documents signed by Edward Snowden, the first tweet from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and a photo of the Japanese Atsuko Sato, from which the Doge meme, which was also popular in crypto circles, emerged a few years ago.
All in all, the ten best-selling NFTs are not really far from what is also on Reddit would go well. Or, as the art critic Jason Farago put it a little more disrespectfully: “Today’s new money prefers its own financial and cultural systems, in which the anarcho-libertarianism of cryptocurrency comes together with certain boys’ pleasures: the uneducated comedy of Salt Bae and Boaty McBoatface , the meaningless heroism of online role-playing games and the stunted emotions of streaming porn. “