The Buyers of Beeple’s $69 Million NFT Sold Thousands of Speculators on a Crypto Art Investment Scheme. So Far… It Is Not Going Well
Up next? A plan to sell a new $58 million NFT.
Exactly two months ago today, Beeple’s Everydays — The First 5,000 Days NFT sold for close to $70 million at Christie’s. The buyer was the Metapurse fund, a group investing in digital art. The giant sale made Beeple one of the priciest artists alive, and planted the idea that NFTs were both the present and future of the art market in the mind of the public.
The record-busting price was also an advertisement of sorts for Metapurse’s own token. The fund had previously turned heads by buying a suite of 20 Beeple NFTs in December for the equivalent of $2.2 million. It then bundled all of them together and sold off 10 million tokens that represented fractional ownership shares in the trove. The pitch was that by investing (or speculating) in this B20 token, as it’s called, everyday traders who could never afford a Beeple NFT could still own a piece of the upside of the NFT art revolution. (Note: “B.20” is the name of the project as a whole, while “B20” is the name of the token, according to a representative of Metapurse.)
Because the B20 token is traded on online exchanges, it has the collateral advantage that observers can track what the broader crypto-art investing world thinks the value of Metapurse’s holdings are, day to day and hour to hour. So, now that enough time has passed for the initial hype of the Christie’s sale to wear off, how’s B20 doing?
Not so well.
B20 was trading at about $2 a token back in mid February. It then had an immense run up in value, peaking at more than $28 dollars per token on March 10—the day before the Christie’s sale of Beeple’s Everydays.
It has fallen dramatically to earth in the two months since. After trading below $2 last week, according to CoinMarketCap.com, it was trading somewhere between $2.29 and $3.14 over the weekend.
On a Discord channel dedicated to B20 traders, some remain confidant that the token’s value will be proven over the coming years or decades. But the tone in recent weeks has been bleak.
“Wrecked so hard on B.20,” writes a user named Bonono.
“How do I open a short position on B.20 so i can get my money back,” asks Id.
“We have to assume that our investment is lost,” writes Reem.
On May 4, Twobadour (aka Anand Venkateswaran), one of the figures behind Metapurse, made public the details of the promised next chapter in the B.20 story while being interviewed by crypto enthusiast Alegria on a Twitch stream.
The plan? Metapurse is promising to go forward with a facet of its smart contract which will allow control of all of B.20’s assets, including the 20 Beeple artworks the fund purchased last December, to be sold with a minimum bid of $58 million. (A representative from Metapurse writes to say that the “buyout” option has been an aspect of the B.20 project since its inception.)
Twobadour was at pains to stress that the potential “buyout” of B.20 would not be a “yard sale” of the assets. “B.20 is one single idea and therefore one single NFT,” he explained. “What’s going to be auctioned off when the buyout goes live is the master key of the experience—one single NFT. We call it the ‘B.20 master key.’ And only the owner of this B.20 master key has any right over the B.20 experience.”
He went on to boast that if it hit the target price, the “master key” would be “the second most valuable NFT ever.”
The first, by far, was the record-shattering $69 million Christie’s sale, paid for by the Metapurse fund itself. The fund’s managers would therefore seem to be counting on someone other than themselves to compete with the high expectations that they themselves created.
To be clear, the new proposed “B.20 master key” NFT does not include Beeple’s Everydays — The First 5,000 Days from Christie’s. A proposal for the B.20 buyout listed the associated assets, besides the 20 Beeple NFTs, as follows: the virtual plots of land they have bought in the online worlds of Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space; the virtual museum structures built on these plots of land to showcase the Beeple works (I previously reviewed the B.20 museum in Cryotovoxels); and an original soundscape created for the virtual museums by the DJ 3LAU.
As a peculiar footnote, Twobadour made the announcement of the $58 million “master key” after the debut of episode four of Inside B.20, a self-produced documentary series recounting Metapurse’s attempt to make B.20’s tokenized digital art ownership scheme a reality.
The previous episode, titled “The Idea Takes Shape,” ended on a cliffhanger. It showed footage of a Zoom call where Twobadour and other players behind B.20 tried to sell Beeple on the idea that offering fractional shares in his work was a good idea. Beeple had expressed skepticism. Episode four, “The Call,” picks up where that one left off. “My main concern off the top of my head is that people might not like this,” the artist says. “My other concern is that other artists will not like this.”
We then watch a lengthy Zoom call where the various members of the B.20 team attempt to win approval from a skeptical Beeple. The pitch session is intercut with title cards with phrases such as, “John Steps Up to the Plate,” “Matthew Takes a Swing,” and “Strike Two” to dramatize the moment.
The emotional high point of the episode is reached when Twobadour drops the word “motherfucker” into his pitch, making Beeple laugh, and thereby winning him over. The moment is accompanied by the title card “Home Run.”
On the Twitch “watch party” debuting the episode, Twobadour’s interviewer, Alegria, was impressed. “It’s proof right there that sometimes you just need to drop a ‘motherfucker’ to get someone to listen to you,” Alegria raved. “Holy crap, that was a beautiful look at how this all went down.”
[5/10/21: This post has been updated to reflect reflect corrections from Metapurse about the price history of the B20 token, the buyout process, and the distinction between B.20 and B20.]
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