It’s a Thursday night in early March. More than 50,000 people are gathered for one of the biggest parties of 2021. There isn’t a DJ or a constant flow of drinks. Instead the celebrity guest of honour is Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple. The crowd has gathered on the audio-only social media app Clubhouse for the live stream of the auction of Beeple’s digital NFT, Everydays: The First 5000 Days. Cheers erupt as the crowd watches the numbers tick higher. As it stops at US$69 million, Winkelmann talks to the crowd. “Dude,” he says, “that was unreal.”
Buying a form of digital art for US$69 million seems like an insane move, given the state of the world. But NFT collecting isn’t just for Bitcoin whales and kids looking to park their #YOLO money. Investors, art collectors and fashion brands see the value in having a stake in an asset as a tool to build generational wealth and protect intellectual property.
“This seemed like it was such a new and, in some ways, bizarre concept, but digital art and communities rallying around the art or artist have been around for a long time,” says Nicholas Black, manager of digital assets and cryptocurrency and the owner of several Beeple NFTs. “As a collector and investor, blockchain authentication via Ethereum is interesting. Blockchain takes ownership of digital art because you, like the artist, have a stake in the art. You are just as vested in the provenance of the digital product as much as the artist, and blockchain allows you to see the chain of ownership. Why own a photo taken from your phone of the Mona Lisa when you can actually own the Mona Lisa?”
What is an NFT?
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