American digital artist Beeple catapulted to international prominence in 2021 with the record-breaking US $69 million sale of his NFT artwork, Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021). Beeple is a leading figure in the NFT art scene and collaborates with celebrities and international brands.Read More
Born in Charleston, South Carolina as Mike Winkelmann, Beeple was raised in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Winkelmann studied computer science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, graduating in 2003. What followed was a brief career in corporate website design, before Winkelmann, with no formal fine arts training, began making artworks using the program Cinema 4D.
Winkelmann's artistic pseudonym, Beeple, comes from a 1980s toy with a light-up nose sensitive to light and sound. Inspired in 2007 by the notion of making an artwork a day, Beeple came to create the digital series that propelled him to international fame.
Beeple works with various digital mediums to produce twisted, comical works laced with pop culture references and social and political commentary.
A pioneer of the 'Everyday movement' in digital art, since 2007 Beeple has, without fail, produced daily digital artworks for his 'Everydays' series (2007–ongoing).
Beeple's 'Everydays' have progressively evolved from rough drawings, photographs, and simple 3D cubes to technically sophisticated, futuristic, dystopian, and satirical digital scenes.
Heading into the 2020s, Beeple has developed more overtly social and political critiques within these works. Among the many examples included are freakish cybernetic Kim Jong Uns, lactating U.S. presidential candidates, Mark Zuckerberg as a zombie mutant, a carnivorous baby Yoda, and billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as a galactic overlord.
With the fast pace of conception and production within this format, the artist himself has professed to have not spent much time pondering the origins of some of the more explicit and unusual imagery that has emerged in the series. Beeple's NFT Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021), which garnered global attention when it sold for US $69 million at Christie's in 2021, is a complete collection of the first 5000 works of the 'Everydays' series.
Since the late 2000s, Beeple has produced several 3D animated short films. Only a few minutes in length, they tackle complex social and political issues. The first, Subprime (2009), used a playful blocky animation style to portray the spiralling American housing market that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Later videos explore issues such as digital privacy and transparency, the threat of unrestricted cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, and America's complex relationship with money.
Beeple has also built up a large and diverse library of VJ Loops, short video clips that can seamlessly play on a loop. Offering a variety of lively abstract and figurative neon visuals and rhythmic waves and pulses, Beeple has made some of these works freely available for use under Creative Commons.
Beeple has also created concert visuals for pop stars including One Direction, Zedd, deadmau5, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Eminem. He has also collaborated on visuals for two Super Bowl halftime shows.
Bridging physical and virtual space, in 2021 Beeple produced Human One, a dynamically changing digital and physical hybrid sculpture. The sculpture consists of a two-metre-tall box with four large LED screens, presenting a digital loop of an anonymous astronaut walking through a digital landscape. This display continually changes, drawing randomly from a large collection of one-minute displays amassed on the Ethereum blockchain.
Retaining remote control of what is displayed on the screen, Beeple can add new works and alter the display as he wishes. In 2022, the artist joined the growing art world response to the invasion of Ukraine by updating Human One to bear the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.
Gaining widespread mainstream recognition, Beeple received GQ's Maddox Gallery Artist of the Year award in 2021.
Beeple has principally exhibited his art online, in digital drops on the Ethereum blockchain through platforms like Nifty Gateway. Beeple's first-ever physical solo exhibition was Uncertain Future at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York (2022).
Prior to October 2020, Beeple was selling artworks for less than US $100. Teaming up with NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway led in December to Beeple's first major auction of NFT art, which accumulated US $3.5 million in one weekend.
In February 2021, Christie's made the record-breaking US $69 million sale of Beeple's Everydays: The First 5000 Days (2021). The first exclusively digital artwork put up for auction by Christie's, Everydays broke records as the most expensive NFT ever sold and as one of the most expensive artworks ever sold. Beeple's auction sales put him as the third highest valued living artist, behind only David Hockney and Jeff Koons.
While Beeple Artworks are sold as NFTs, the artist often produces a physical object to accompany the sale. To that end, the artist has delivered small LCD screens in titanium cases that display the purchased artworks for the collector.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2022