We chat with Mike Winklemann about NFTs and digital art


Digital and NFT artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, needs no introduction. After all, in a way, he became the face of the NFT craze that blossomed last year. Just over a year ago, Beeple’s record $69 million NFT auction at Christie’s grabbed headlines for months. Even today, there’s probably no one in the NFT space who doesn’t know about Beeple and his iconic NFT artwork “Eevery day – The first 5000 days“.

At the time, Every day broke all NFT sales records as the most expensive NFT sale in history. This remarkable achievement was only surpassed in December 2021 by NFT Artist, Pak. Fortunately, NFTevening’s Angela Giampolo had the chance to speak with Beeple during the NFT In America conference.

Beeple spoke to NFTevening about his journey as a digital artist.

But who is Beeple?

A few years ago, Beeple was just an average digital artist without global recognition. Certainly, digital artists and digital art themselves had not yet achieved the popularity they enjoy today. Indeed, Beeple recalled that he didn’t really consider himself an artist for very long. In his own words, he was a designer that “people hired to solve problems”. Obviously, Mike Winkelmann wasn’t always known as Beeple. In fact, he started going by this nickname in 2003.

What is a Beeple?

Apparently, “Beeple” refers to a small furry bigfoot-like toy that beeps. The original toy also inspired some of his works. Namely, the Spring 2021 collection with flasks of hair “that actually got shaved off of one of those Beeples.” Additionally, over the years, Winkelmann has often gifted these toys to fans, friends, and family.

How did Beeple become so famous?

Even as little as four months before he made his eight-figure sale, the most his art ever sold was for just $100. It was then that Beeple organized an exhibition in Toronto at the end of 2019. There, the organizers decided to exhibit his work for a “paltry sum of money”, knowing full well that no one would buy it. They were right – no one bought either the original coin for $14,000 or the prints for $1,000 each. Most people bought prints that cost $100.

How much does Beeple earn?

But, the tides turned in Beeple’s favor when in October 2020 he sold his first pair of NFTs for $66,666.66 each. Later, in December, a series of his works grossed $3.5 million in total. In February, one of its first series NFTs sold for $6.6 million on the secondary market. weeks later, “Everyday – The First 5000 Days” scripted story.

“Now I just do what I want and pray to God someone will pay for it,” Beeple said. NFToirée. Today, he describes himself above all as a digital artist who “begins to interfere more in the traditional world (physical world)”*.

Top NFT Artist Mike Winkelmann on the Secret to Success

After the Christie’s auction, many described Beeple as an immediate success. This comes despite the fact that he didn’t create the piece overnight – it took him 13 years. To some extent, Beeple agreed that for the mainstream art world and media in general, it “came out of nowhere”. However, he explained, they only focus on the NFT aspect and not the social media he has acquired over the years.

“I think social media and building a network of millions of people over the previous decade is what allowed me to do something like this once this NFT technology came along,” did he declare. “What people might not really understand with NFTs is that it’s not a silver bullet where you’re suddenly going to start selling things. If you don’t have an embedded audience and you haven’t built a community around your work, then it will be very difficult to sell stuff – NFT, canvas, photography, sculpture, whatever.

Building an NFT community is key

That’s exactly what Beeple has done: he’s built a following over the years. “It had nothing to do with the sales of the first 20 years here,” he added. “I think it’s really about making that 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.

Every day: the first 5,000 days of the NFT work
Everydays: The First 5000 Days old at a Christie’s auction, catapulting Beeple onto the world stage.

Beeple & Fame: after the everyday Christies auction

A year after its record sale, Beeple said it was still handling the Christie’s auction.

“Things were happening at a [normal] pace, then everything sped up to a new pace, and then it stayed at that pace,” he said. “…because NFTs haven’t gone away. Now there’s this kind of shortcut—if you’ve heard of [NFTs]then chances are you’ve heard of me too.

“Even now when I’m in the fucking airport, someone comes up to me and wants to take a fucking selfie,” Beeple added. “It didn’t happen before. So it’s a different level of attention that I’m still getting used to. But it’s also been so exciting and something that I feel so, so blessed and lucky to be in this position.

That said, Beeple thinks a “degree of luck” definitely helped him get to where he is today. Although he put in the time and work, he added, he did not invent NFTs. Indeed, it didn’t join the NFT space as soon as you might think. In fact, several others had been working there for years before that.

“It’s something that I’ve dealt with, but I’ve also, to a certain extent, just made peace with the fact that I’ll never fully process it… Because it’s just one of those things. weird that just doesn’t seem like it happened.”

Various daily NFT artworks
A look at some of Beeple’s Everydays NFT artwork.

What’s next for Mike Winkelmann?

Currently, Beeple is constructing a 50,000 square foot building in Charleston that will serve as their studio. The space will also have a gallery that will likely be ready within the next few months. Besides, the building will also have an “experience space with tons of projectors”.

Winkelmann hopes this space will function as a bridge between the traditional and digital art worlds. “A place where I can show physical work immediately without having to wait,” he explained. “It will also be a place where we can organize events and bring communities together. I think it’s going to be super exciting and something I’m looking forward to.

Thank you so much to NFT in America for hosting such a great interview with the legendary Mike Winkelmann (Beeple). Without forgetting, a huge thank you to Beeple for lending us your time. It was a pleasure to meet you.

If you want to see more like this, grab Beeple’s full interview on our youtube channel and watch this space for more interviews to come.

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