NFT's digital crypto-art by Beeple sells for record-breaking $69 million

The first digital-only art auction by Christie's auction house has hammered for a staggering $69 million (£50 million) for the artist Beeple.

The art was sold as a non-fungible token (NFT) - the latest tech craze which has boomed in popularity in recent months.

'Everydays: the First 5,000 Days' is a mosaic collage of every image that artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, has made since 2007. 

Christie's said this success puts Beeple "among the top three most valuable living artists".

The company added that the sale was the first NFT-based work of art sold by a "major" auction house, and set a new world record for digital art.

Beeple uses a variety of digital modelling and artistic programmes for the individual pieces.

Commenting on how the artwork has been made, Beeple said: "The artwork that I made is very much influenced by tools and influenced by the work of a bunch of people in the crypto-community as well."

The auction has attracted a huge amount of attention, with bidding ramping up to $10m earlier this week.

But on the final day of bidding, it skyrocketed to a final price of $69,346,250.

Reacting to the huge sale of his art, Beeple said: "69 million, I think digital art is here to stay, we're going to Disney World."

What is a Non-Fungible Token?

The artwork is attached to a non-fungible token (NFT), a digital certificate of authenticity that runs on blockchain technology.

Unlike some of his other artworks, Everydays doesn’t come with anything physical such as a box or a plaque. 

This means that it can't be replicated and has almost like a unique ID assigned to the art.

As the crypto-art is basically a very expensive jpeg image, it can be viewed by millions and in theory could be printed out/shown through a digital frame - although the original stays with the buyer.

The encrypted works which are authenticated using blockchain technology and tagged with a unique digital signature are on the rise, capturing the attention of celebrities and tech moguls.

Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey offered the first tweet on the NFT platform Valuables - which is now sitting on an offer of $2.5 million.

However, critics have said the digital tokens have a huge environmental impact, since they are stored on a Blockchain, similar to crypto-currencies including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

This means it is currently enormously energy inefficient – estimates vary widely, but the average power consumption of a single NFT transaction is equivalent to about 48kWH of energy, or something like two or three days’ worth of power for an average Australian household.

The $69 million price tag isn’t just an unprecedented price for an NFT, it’s an unprecedented price for a new artist.

In contrast, major works by giants of art history such as Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso  saw sales of just $16 million and $15.6 million recently.