This digital art just sold for nearly $70 million – the highest crypto-art sale in history – making its creator one of the top three most valuable living artists

Beeple's piece sells on Christie's site.
Beeple’s piece sells on site. Christie’s
  • Beeple’s latest art ranks among some of the most expensive pieces sold by living artists.
  • The price for the digital art piece jumped from $US15 ($19) million to nearly $US70 ($90) million in under an hour.
  • It was the first NFT to be sold by a historic auction house.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Digital artist Mike Winkelmann – known online as Beeple – has smashed crypto-art records yet again with a nearly $US70 ($90) million sale.

On Thursday, Winkelmann became one of the top three most valuable living artists, according to Christie’s, as his sale became the highest for any online bid to date.

His piece sold for nearly $US70 ($90) million in an auction that saw furious bidding activity down to the very last minute. The price for the piece jumped from $US15 ($19) million to over $US69 ($89) million in under 30 minutes.

Bloomberg reported that Tron founder Justin Sun had the winning bid on the piece at $US60.25 ($77) million, but a representative for the crypto tycoon told Insider that Sun was outbid at the last minute.

“NFT is definitely a revolution to the industry for the our generation,” the spokesperson told Insider. “Both Justin and TRON Foundation are super excited for the techonolgy and will to heavily support the ecosystem development around that.”

Previously, the most expensive crypto-art sale was another Beeple piece that was resold for $US6 ($8).6 ($8) million on Nifty Gateway.

This new piece, titled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” represented a collection of 5,000 Beeple digital art pieces. Christie’s specialist Noah Davis calls the piece Beeple’s “opus,” as it shows his development as an artist. The auction lasted over a week and ended on Thursday.

Winkelmann told Insider in a previous interview that prior to recent months, he’d never expected to sell a piece for more than $US1,000 ($1,285).

Winkelmann’s piece is a non-fungible token or NFT. NFTs operate as a new type of digital asset. The digital tokens have rapidly gained popularity during the pandemic, as brands like the NBA and Nike got in on the trend and artists like Grimes sold art collections for nearly $US6 ($8) million in under 20 minutes.

In the past month alone, top NFT platforms have sold nearly $US500 ($643) million in digital assets, according to CryptoSlam.

Beeple’s $US69 ($89) million sale represented the first NFT sale for Christie’s – an auction house that was founded in 1766. Prior to the auction, the historic auction house said it was unable to estimate the price of Beeple’s work. 33 individuals bid on the piece and over 90% of them were new visitors to Christie’s site.

Read more: Here are 4 NFT startups transforming the way we buy art and sports memorabilia

“We’re replacing our typical Estimate on Request with Estimate Unknown,” Christie’s specialist Noah Davis said in the initial press release. “We’re breaking such new ground with this piece, your guess is as good as ours.”

Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile told Insider that, after selling a Beeple piece for $US6 ($8).6 ($8) million, he thinks Winkelmann is a symbol for the entire NFT movement.

“This will become the art world over time,” Rodriguez-Fraile told Insider. “NFTs are going to become more desirable than a physical piece. They give collectors a closer connection to the artist.”

Rodriguez-Fraile told Insider that NFTs give power back to the artists and for many artists like Winkelmann, it gives them the power to finally receive recognition for their work.

“I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art,” Winkelmann said in a press release. “Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20+ years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it. With NFT’s that has now changed.”

Winkelmann will also be able to continue to profit off future sales of his piece, as most NFT platforms allow artists to receive at least 10% royalties.