Who is Beeple and why is his artwork selling for millions?

August 9, 2022

Before he became THE Beeple, 40-year-old Mike Winkelmann was a computer-science-grad-turned-digital artist selling art prints for as little as $100. A few years later, Winkelmann will be known globally as Beeple, the third-most expensive living artist whose artwork sold for $69 million as an NFT at a Christie’s auction. He would be a global sensation; his sale was the beginning of an artistic revolution and, some would say, a historical inflection point.

But who exactly is Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a Beeple?

If you wanted to single him out of a crowd, the auction cataloguer at Christie’s, Meghan Doyle would tell you, "he looks like a high school math teacher playing on his computer every single day.” And that's because Winkelmann did not have any of the stereotypical artist 'looks'. For one, he lived in the cool suburbs of Charleston with his wife and two kids. And he looked more likely to be a tech CEO than the creator of comical, genre-bending art

Six months before Beeple’s rise to stardom, he had zero knowledge of web 3 and the NFT industry. “At first, it was like I don’t think this is for me. This is some weird crypto thing” he said recalling how his fans initially pushed him into NFTs.

He was, however, well established as a graphic designer and video jockey in digital art circles. He had created concert visuals for mainstream artists like Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Childish Gambino. When Shakira walked through a wall of fire at her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, that was Beeple’s work. His designs had been featured in Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2019 apparel collection at the 2018 Paris Fashion week. His short films had travelled through Maine, Sydney and Ann Harbor and he had even mapped out a vision for SpaceX on Mars. Beeple was a sensation in the digital art and videography scene but he had no ties to the traditional art world.

But when he did finally decide to venture into the metaverse, there was no going back. “People describe it as falling down a rabbit hole,” Beeple told The Wall Street Journal, “and that is quite accurate.” 

How Beeple Took Over Web 3 and Made History with One NFT

Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a, Beeple sold his first collection of NFTs in October 2020, with a pair selling for $66,666.66 each. He sold several pieces for a total of $3.5 million in December 2020. In February 2021, one of the initial pairs that sold for $66,666.66 was resold for $6.6 million. By March 2021, Everydays knocked the ball out of the park.

The famous $69 million artwork is a collection of 5,000 daily sketches created over 14 years by Beeple and tagged, Everydays: The First 5000 Days. The collection is a composite of everything from futuristic imaginations of pop culture moments to a bizarre blend of technology, landscape and a dystopian future. Each image is unique yet a part of a larger story, futuristic yet grounded in the mundanities of the current day. He would often switched mediums starting with hand drawings in 2007 to adobe illustrator in 2012 and finally 3D modelling. But his work remained true to style; controversial, world-bending, hilarious and seemingly nightmarish.

In many ways, Everydays characterizes all that NFT creators seek to achieve. An escape from the rules of traditional art and an opportunity to create worlds through art.

Where’s Beeple Now?

Recounting his journey so far, Beeple has been as mindblown as the rest of the world. “It’s been such a crazy trip to have this whole new world of NFTs open up that I never even thought was possible. And now it’s like, ‘oh, wow, okay, I could sell my work like this.”

The sale of the first 5,000 Everydays catapulted him into even greater fame and fortune. Still, it remains an ongoing project for Beeple. He continues to create and share with his growing millions of followers (on Instagram particularly) as his constant focus is on being an active participant in the evolution process of art.

Likewise, Beeple is breaking new grounds in his artistic scope. Earlier this year, he unveiled his first gallery exhibition, Uncertain Future, at the Jack Hanley Gallery, New York to an audience of over 1,000. As usual, Sci-Fi was a recurrent theme in the show. The dazzling display of dye prints (with their accompanying NFTs) featured apocalyptic imagery of stacked Amazon shipping containers, zombie-like factory workers, and hacked-off heads of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. 

By immersing viewers in an experience that brings physical and digital art together, Beeple’s works are transcending singular artistic boxes and pushing the boundaries of what can be an NFT and what an NFT can be.


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