Beeple on the stage at SXSW after one year of the BIG-BOOM, talked about the changes in the traditional art market and the rise of digital art, the impact that the collector Metakovan made, the future of NFTs, the new heavens promised by web3, but also… about why he keeps so many TVs in the office.
In March 2021, the world learned a new word: NFT, and google search hit a new record: what is an NFT?
A new era begins in art when the artist Beeple becomes (apparently) overnight the third most expensive living artist!
And while the established traditional fine art world started to debate: “why would someone pay $69 million for a jpeg?” and “what is art”?, a new era of NFT Gold Rush begins.
Musician, fashion designers, film makers, architects, and even started to see potential in NFTs. VCs started to bet on it, and platforms raised millions, and marketing departments started to investigate it, and see how you can sell products…even toilet paper-themed crypto art by Charmin. (read more Here)
NFT-miracle did not prove so miraculous for every artist, some did not succeed to get rich, and also speculative shady-deal-maker started to appear. But, NFTs changed a lot in the art market.
It was interesting to see Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) in a conversation with Laurie Segall (CEO & Editor in ChiefatDot Dot Dot, D3) to talk sincerely about what is meant for him and for the art-world the sales of Everydays, and to reflect both on his art, and the changes that are coming once technology penetrates our life. (Bonus: we found out the Beeple quite uses the F-word. How often? Find out at the end of this article! 😛 )
Before he became the third most expensive living artist behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney, Beeple, like many other digital artists, was making money as a freelance graphic designer.
There was no place for digital -artists in the close circle of the fine-art world, collectors would not buy it, and art-auction houses would not sell the so-called ‘jpeg-files’.
Right after the sales: What in the fuck is going on?
First reaction when he was auctioned was: “What in the fuck is going on? It’s just been a lot to process”.
Beeple admits that he did not see it coming, he became aware of NFTs only 5 month before the sales and he did not know anything about crypto, nothing about the blockchain. And after the sales, the traditional art world was completely new to him.
“The fine art world has different rules from the crypto world, and also different rules from the digital art, or freelance world, that I was in. It’s been a lot of learning, but everybody I’ve met has been helpful, patient with me, sort of learning the ropes of these new worlds. So it’s just been something that I feel super fortunate to be in this position“.
The impact of MetaKovan – the rise of a new type of collector
One question that always appears is why would somebody give that price for a jpeg, even when people started to understand that the jpeg contains the work of over 10 years.
Beeple highlighted the sometimes overlooked story of MetaKovan, who at the time when Beeple started the Everydays (May 1, 2007), MetaKovan was programming in a very small poor town in India. At that time, he did not have a personal computer, he had to borrow from friends. And most probably, MetaKovan sort of saw himself in that journey over the last 13 years.
“He is not remotely like a typical art patron. And I think that’s something that was also kind of lost in the story, that this was a poor kid from India, who in the last decade, amassed enough money to buy the third most expensive artwork. And that’s insane, now that I have a better sense of the traditional art market and the patrons at the high end, that is like absolutely fucking insane”
And in a way, both Beeple and Metakovan and Twobadour were outsiders of the Art World, and succeeded in shaking it together!
Read also about Twobadour, the partner of Metakovan, and co-investor in Beeple’s Everyday: Twobadour was the guest at the series of lectures “The Metaverse and the Future of Work and Play” organized by Elizabeth Strickler from Xpand Studio
Link for article
Shaking the Traditional Fine Art World or about “This is not art”
Definitely, the sales and especially the price was “a big enough number that caught everybody’s attention”, and the involvement of an institution such as Christie’s caught the attention of the art world: What the hell is this, selling a computer file that has no physical representation?
Beeple admits that he considered himself part of the art world, so he was genuinely surprised to realize that mope, the artworld, did not consider him as one of them. “It was very surprising to me that people would say, the art that I’ve created like the Everyday, it wasn’t just bad art, it was like “that it’s not art”
He remembers finding it surprising that there were people who were so “pissed about this”, and even called Christie’s to check if they are still going to sell paintings “Like what's going on? Chill out, this isn't the fucking end of the world because people are buying some monkey pictures, things are gonna fucking move on”.
Beeple considers that digital art is just pushing the boundaries of what art is.
Digital art was all around, in movies, commercials, but not considered art. But changes like these happened before with photography as well….photography was not art for many years, and then all of a sudden, it was part of it.
PHYGITAL – the new trends? Bring digital art in the physical world
The interaction with traditional art, prompted Beeple to think also about how to take artwork that is very digital and bring it into the physical world, how to use different materials or metals. He also built a 50,000 square foot space, kind of a gallery space. Where he can show his artwork immediately. As with the traditional art spaces, museums and galleries everything is slower, takes a lot of time till they accept artists’ work, while digital artists are used to show their works immediately to the world.
Beeple is currently exposed also at the Jack Hanley Gallery in Manhattan ”Uncertain Future”, Beeple’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Between March 3rd – March 19th, 2022 you can visit exibition.
The artist states:
This show hopes to spur a dialogue about the outsized role of big tech companies in our lives and how that might play out in the future. As we continue to be complicit through the use of these services, these companies and their founders have an increasing impact on many aspects of how our society will look in the future. The science-fiction themes found in these works are presented in a tongue-in-cheek way but also meant to shine a light on real trends that are occurring today. As technological advances in disparate sectors of the economy combine this will have a multiplying effect and the seemingly bizarre, unintended consequences of technology will become an ever-increasing factor in modern life.
The reason? He wanted to do something that was more playing by the traditional rules – to have a gallery show and to show people from the traditional art world that digital art is kind of just another medium that has the same messages, craft, and emotion attached to it than any other medium such as painting, sculpture, photography has.
So they could focus more on the image and the message behind it and see that it’s just like any other piece of artwork.
Also, Beeple considers that what makes digital art interesting, is that it doesn’t have an inherent physical form, it can almost take any physical form, and thus have different meanings attached to it. But the actual art is almost like an idea, because it doesn’t actually exist in a way.
And after one year of debates, is Beeple Fitting in the Art World?
“I think people are starting to see this as a piece of the conversation. People are starting to see that this art form has the same sort of elements of other media.”
But, while these conversations take place, Beeple is continuing his humorous, sometimes political, sometimes tech-critical or futuristic art. “It is odd that like that I’m now in this position where I am sort of connecting and sort of trying to educate all of these very serious museum curators and directors and galleries above above, but I’m also putting a bunch of dicks on Jeff Bezos head but like somehow and like people are just “Oh, yeah, that’s very interesting”.
Future of NFTs?
Beeple believes that in the future, we will see NFTs on all paintings, and this hype “i’ve got an NFT” will fade. NFT will show the provenance, and you could see immediately who owned it, so it is just a better certificate of authenticity.
“End of the day, none of this NFT will last, if it is not better than what came before. It can be an NFT, just for the sake of being an NFT”
He also mentioned that there is a lot of room for improvement across a wide spectrum, such as UI to be easier to use and understand, wallets are still very complicated for most people, but it is going to take time and education. But, there will be some use-cases for NFTs, inventory systems, or things that we want to track.
Future of Technology
Technology is going to only become increasingly relevant as technology continues to kind of intersect with different aspects of our life. He underlined that many big-tech companies have both positives and negatives, but we should have more dialogues about the impact of companies.
Related to the hypes such as Metaverse, DAOs and web3, Beeple shows caution: “it is too early”. He thinks that there is some sort of carry over from web2 space, and it is going to take “conscious effort to change” .
People see that changes are coming, but, “we don’t know how this is going to play out in the next 3-4 years”.
DATA1: He still posts Everyday
DATA2: He uses often the F*ck word 🙂 we counted: 27 mentions in less than 1 hour.
DATA3: In the room, he has two TVs and at the office 6 TVs. They’re all on mute. And they all have a different news channel on. “I view that as a window to the broader outside world. And to me, it’s something that I find interesting and inspiring right now in my work to sort of process and kind of comment on these things that are happening”
DATA4: He has a computer in the bathroom to keep it cool, because computers create a lot of heat and need computing power and rendering can take 30-40 min for one scene. “I just put them in the bathroom, and then just run a quarter to my office, then I don’t have to hear these noisy loud computers”
DATA5:He invested in UnicornDAO to encourage diversity
NO DATA just a ViewPoint: Beeple about his art: I’m always trying to make pictures that sort of ask more questions than give kind of direct answers. Because to me, that’s just not as interesting and it’s just not going to last as long. if it’s too obvious what the picture means is not that interesting, I would much rather have it be more ambiguous and be something that, you know, has multiple sort of like layers of meaning that you could sort of take from it and that it’s that different people can take different meaning from it and it kind of like spurs a conversation. I think that is to me this sort of an interesting, kind of like type of art.
*All photos are copyrighted SXSW2022 and may be used by press only for editorial coverage*