Beeple Will Return to Christie’s Next Month, This Time With an Actual, Physical Artwork (That Is Also an NFT)

The piece, which features an astronaut striding across an otherworldly landscape, is expected to fetch more than $15 million.

Beeple, HUMAN ONE (2021). Courtesy of Christie's.

Back in March, a crypto artwork by Beeple forced the hoi polloi to wrap their minds around the slippery concept of NFTs when it sold for $69 million at Christie’s. Now, the artist, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, is returning to the auction house with his newest creation—and again, he’s hoping to blur the lines around our understanding of what art looks like. 

Today, Christie’s announced that a video sculpture by Beeple—his first-ever physical work of art—will highlight its 21st-century evening sale on November 9, where the piece is expected to fetch more than $15 million. (The artwork carries a guarantee.)

The sculpture, a hybridized physical and digital artwork called HUMAN ONE, takes the form of a monolithic prism roughly the size of a phone booth. On each side are LED screens that loop animated footage of an astronaut strolling through an otherworldly landscape. The piece rotates slowly so that the figure never leaves the frame.

The structure is one of a kind, and so is its digital component—an NFT logged on the Ethereum blockchain. Beeple will update the footage over time.

“The design of HUMAN ONE,” the artist explained in a statement, “allows the video in both the physical object and its NFT to be remotely and seamlessly modified from the blockchain—enabling the message and meaning of this piece to continue to evolve over the course of my life.” 

Beeple, <i>HUMAN ONE</i> (2021). Courtesy of Christie's.

Beeple, HUMAN ONE (2021). Courtesy of Christie’s.

“While a traditional work of art is more akin to a finite statement, frozen in time at the moment it was completed, this artwork’s unique ability to be updated makes it more akin to an ongoing conversation,” he added.

Be that as it may, the object—which consigned by Beeple himself—at least looks more like a conventional artwork than the record-shattering Everydays: The First 5,000 Days. For that reason, HUMAN ONE may well attract interest from more traditionally-minded collectors, as well as newer, NFT-oriented ones. The fact that the artwork is featured in Christie’s marquee fall evening sale, among works by auction mainstays like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher Wool, and Cindy Sherman will surely help.

It’s a thin needle to thread, but Christie’s Head of Digital Art & Online Sales, Noah Davis, thinks Winkelmann is up to the task.

“The pressure on artists of all stripes to outdo themselves in the wake of a massive success can be daunting,” Davis said. “In Mike’s case, he practically knocked the entire art world off its axis earlier this year, so I can’t imagine what that weight—the weight of the expectations of this enormous, global audience—must feel like. But I do know that with HUMAN ONE, and against the odds, Mike has achieved something historic, again.”

HUMAN ONE is set to go on view at Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries starting tomorrow, October 30. “The exhibition,” Davis said, “will no doubt be a pilgrimage for believers in the bright future for NFTs.”

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