Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 delightful Breakfast of Champions, focuses on a middle-aged writer named Kilgore Trout. Trout has written a novel, This Year’s Masterpiece, that focuses on art in society. In the novel, government officials spin a wheel to determine which painting will be take the annual title. That year, the wheel lands on a portrait of a cat painted by a cobbler named Gooz, who instantly becomes a famous artist and a billionaire.
Hmm. Sounds a lot like Beeple.
This week, his crummy-looking collection of thumbnail JPEGs was sold for $69.3 million to a buyer named Metakovan. Every single thing about this transaction is digital. The art produced by Mike Winkelmann, a real-life Gooz also known as Beeple, is made completely on the computer. The art he produced was sold as a non-fungible token, meaning it exists only in the pixelated world. And the buyer paid in cryptocurrency and gave a Google Meet interview sans video.
Another current NFT auction features the first tweet ever sent by Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder who currently looks like a cartoon version of Tyrion Lannister. Here it is for free: “just setting up my twttr.” That collection of poor punctuation and spelling is currently selling for $2.5 million on Valuables, a digital platform that allows all sorts of digitally-minded folks to sell imaginary art.
It’s my understanding that even the parent company of Fine Art Globe, Sea of Reeds Media, has now gotten into the act. They opened a store to repackage their original photography as NFTs. If you think the photo of Journey guitarist Neal Schon, treated with some Illustrator or Photoshop effects, is art, by all means bid on it via their auction on opensea.io. Wheel in the Sky, wheel spun by government officials, it doesn’t really matter.
Where will the wheel spin next?