Digital and NFT artist Mike Winkelmann, popularly known as Beeple, needs no introduction. He has been the face of NFT, and he is rightly so. Little over a year ago, Beeple’s record $69 million NFT auction at Christie’s had made headlines for months. Even today, there’s likely no one in the NFT space that doesn’t know about Beeple and his iconic NFT artwork “Everydays – The First 5000 Days“.
At the time, Everydays broke every NFT sales record as the most expensive NFT sale in history. This remarkable achievement was only surpassed in December 2021 by NFT artist, Pak. Luckily, NFTevening’s Angela Giampolo got the chance to speak with Beeple during NFT In America conference.
But, who is Beeple?
A few years ago, Beeple was just your average digital artist with no worldwide recognition. Digital artists and digital art were not yet as popular as they are today. Beeple said that he wasn’t an artist for a long time. In his own words, he was a designer that “people hired to solve problems.” Obviously, Mike Winkelmann was not always known as Beeple. As a matter of fact, he started going by the moniker in 2003.
What Is A Beeple?
Apparently, ‘Beeple’ actually refers to a little furry bigfoot-like toy that beeps. Some of his artwork was inspired by the original toy. Namely, the spring collection of 2021 featuring vials of hair “which were actually shaved from one of those Beeples”. Winkelmann has also given these toys over the years to friends, family, and fans.
How Did Beeple Become So Famous?
Even as little as four months before he made his eight-figure sale, the most his art had ever sold was for a mere $100. This was when Beeple held an exhibition in Toronto in late 2019. The organizers put his artwork up for a ridiculous amount of money, knowing that no one would purchase it. They were right–no one bought neither the original piece for $14,000 nor the prints for $1,000 each. The most anyone bought were the prints costing $100.
How Much Does Beeple Make?
But, the tides turned in Beeple’s favour when in October 2020, he sold his first pair of NFTs for $66,666. 66 each. In December, a complete series of his works was sold for $3.5 million. One of his NFTs was sold on the secondary market for $6.6million in February. Weeks later, “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” scripted history.
“Now I just make whatever the hell I want and pray to God somebody wants to pay money for that,” Beeple told NFTevening. He describes himself as a digital artist, who now wants to “start to wade into the traditional world (physical )”.
Top NFT Artist Mike Winkelmann On The Secret To Success
Post the Christie’s auction, many have described Beeple as an overnight success. This comes despite the fact that he didn’t create the piece overnight–it took him 13 years. Beeple admitted that he was “out of nowhere” for traditional art and media. He argued that they are only focusing on NFT and not his social media following over the years.
“I think social media and building up a following of millions of people over the preceding decade, that’s what allowed me to do something like this once this NFT technology came along,” he said. NFTs are not a magic bullet that will allow you to suddenly start selling stuff. If you do not have a built-in audience and you have not built a community around your work, then it is going to be very hard to sell stuff–NFTs, canvas, photography, sculpture, whatever.”
Building An NFT Community Is Key
That’s exactly what Beeple did–he built an audience over the years. “It had nothing to do with sales for the first 20 years here,” he added. It’s all about building an emotional connection with people. And if people don’t have an emotional connection to your work, I’m sorry, they’re just not going to buy it.”
Beeple & Fame: After The Everydays Christies Auction
A year since his record-breaking sale, Beeple said that he’s still processing the Christie’s auction.
“Things were happening at a [normal] pace and then everything just got bumped up to a new pace and then it stayed at that pace,” he said. “…because the NFTs are still around. Now, there is this sort of shorthand–if you’ve heard of [NFTs], then there’s probably a good chance you’ve heard of me too.”
“Even now, when I’m in the fuairport, somebody comes up to me and wants to take a fuselfie,” Beeple added. This was never something that happened before. It’s an entirely new level of attention, which I am still getting used too. But, it’s also been just so exciting and something that I just feel so, so blessed and fortunate to be in this position.”
That said, Beeple believes a “degree of luck” certainly helped him reach where he is today. He acknowledged that he worked hard but did not invent NFTs. He didn’t actually join the NFT industry as soon as you might think. Several others had been working on them for many years before he did.
“It’s something that I have processed, but I’ve also, to some degree, just made peace with the fact that I’ll never kind of fully process it…Because it’s just one of those bizarre things that just does not seem like that happened.”
What’s next for Mike Winkelmann?
Currently, Beeple is building a 50,000 square foot building in Charleston which will act as his studio. A gallery will be available in the space, which should be completed within the next few months. The building will also include an “experiential area with tons of projectors”.
Winkelmann hopes this space to function as a bridge between the traditional and digital art worlds. He explained that he wanted a place where he could show his physical work without waiting. It will be a place where events can be held and communities can come together. I think it is going to be super exciting and something that I’m very much looking forward to.”
Thanks so much for NFT in America for arranging such a great interview with the legendary Mike Winkelmann (Beeple). Beeple, thank you so much for your time. It was an honor to meet you.
If you want to see more like this, catch the full Beeple interview on our youtube channel and watch this space for more interviews coming soon.
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