It took a few minutes for Vignesh Sundaresan and Anand Venkateswaran to realize that they had parted ways with $ 69.3 million in digital art stored in a JPEG file, understandably defending their place in the history of art.
“We were not sure if we had won,” said Venkateswaran, describing the final moments of storing an online auction in a 5,000 photo collage by an artist known as Beeple. We’ve been refreshing the page. ”
The March 11 auction held at Christie’s in London soon made Beeple’s masterpiece one of the most expensive pieces ever sold by live artists, joined by David Hockney’s famous swimming pool painting and the iconic stainless steel rabbit sculpture by Jeff Koons.
They also had to deal with external concerns that the transaction would be an integrated system to include investor portfolio value.
That’s because Venkateswaran and Sundaresan have invested heavily in a new form of the digital collection with the mysterious name of invisible tokens, or NFTs. Depending on the blockchain technology known as the blockchain, these digital devices serve as special certificates of authenticity, making it easy to convert hard-copy digital copies into separate collections – sometimes costing tens of millions of dollars.
Beeple Sales broke the most expensive NFT record ever sold and sparked a global debate about NFTs, their value and whether they are a lasting addition to the digital world. But the eye-catching amount has been the subject of much headlines around the world and some suspicions that it might have been for advertising that has led to more attention being paid to the NFTs, which could increase the value of both.
The involvement of Christie’s house, which has been on sale for centuries, should be enough to quell doubts, Venkateswaran said in a telephone call from his home in southern India. “I think the biggest problem here is that people thought this would never happen.”
That’s exactly what happened to Beeple himself, a digital actor named Mike Winkelmann in real life. “The whole NFT thing was not something I saw coming, at all,” he said. During the auction, the singer was in his living room near Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by family and video staff, who said it sounded like a “bomb blast in a room” as the bids got up quickly. , Justin Sun, lost the last few seconds after bids exceeded his pre-set limit.
The NFT market was already in operation, and last year transactions doubled to $ 250 million, according to a report by NonFungible.com, a website that tracks that market. Beeple sale sold that growth and helped transform NFTs from niche tokens to cryptocurrency nerds into a new type of digital asset that draws general attention from the world of art, the music industry, sports and speculators.
Not to be outdone, Sotheby House Contest is planning its NFT sale, working with fake digital artist Pak on sale next month.
Winkelmann first saw the NFTs ’opportunities for digital artists back in October when he tested the water with the first“ drop ”of his career. “People own my art and collect it and, you know, pay good money,” he said in an interview this week.
It was after another sale late last year that he reached out to one of the missing businessmen, Sundaresan, who uses the pseudonym Metakovan.
The art world was not the norm for Sundaresan and Venkateswaran to talk when they first met in 2013 working at The Hindu, a daily newspaper in Chennai, India. Sundaresan has been the technology coordinator for 20 items; Venkateswaran was a journalist.
Both were raised with humility. Sundaresan was unable to buy a laptop while learning to code, so he was travelling on a flash drive and borrowing laptops from his friends, Venkateswaran said.
But by 2020, Sundaresan, now living in Singapore, had become rich through a series of cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency investments. With Sundaresan’s money and Venkateswaran’s analytical eye, they began testing the NFTs with a new fund called Metapurse.
Sundaresan, who declined to be interviewed this week, created Persona Metakovan as an indicator of his love for the visible world known as the “metaverse.” The name means “King of Meta” in the Tamil language. Venkateswaran, who lives in Chennai with his wife and two children, calls himself Twobadour. In a blog post last week the two revealed their true identity and wanted to end one of the mysteries with their motives.
“The point was to show Indians and people of colour that they too could be masters, that crypto was an equal force between the West and the Rest, and that the southern hemisphere was growing,” they wrote.
It was December when Metapurse made their first major Beeple investment, bought his $ 2.2 million works and gave the artist 2% of their new NFT token bag, called the B20s, designed to allow large groups of people to share ownership of an art piece.
That was a prelude to Beeple’s historic March sale of “Every day’s: the First 5000 Days,” a digital file covering the activities Beeple performed each day from May 2007 to earlier this year. Many of them are horrible and the cartoon captures the events of U.S. politics or pop culture. The works also follow Beeple’s rise from the lesser-known artist to an online person with the following major Instagram projects and multimedia with pop stars such as Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber.
“If you look at each picture statistically, it’s clear that not all of them will face time,” Venkateswaran said. “Not all 5,000 are artistic. That has never been the case. Not everything Beeple presents is gold. We do not worship at his feet. That’s not what we were talking about. This is about the combined account of what you should not be. ”
The acquisition shocked the world of art and finance, but somehow it was common, said New York art lawyer Leila Amineddoleh.
“Many art markets say,” I have something different, scarce, I have, I look. “This is not much different,” he said. “The total amount of NFT can be said to be the original. You are buying the proud rights of, ‘Owner of the token.’
Amineddoleh said blockchain technology supports NFTs and other cryptocurrency markets and provides an open ledger for recording art transactions. But for those who don’t believe in a highly unregulated digital world of money, marketing has invited more tests.
Christie declined to comment on the details of the financial structure of the transaction without claiming that the total amount was paid in a cryptocurrency known as Ether, which puts Christie’s first time accepting cryptocurrency as payment.
“Obviously there are financial channels and Christie had a lot of exchanges that they were willing to work with, which they tested and approved,” Venkateswaran said. “And that’s the exchange used to pay. So Christie’s has all the information.”
Cryptocurrency trading may be prone to deceptive behaviour, according to a study by Friedhelm Victor of the Technical University of Berlin. But that often entails investors who buy and sell the same goods over and over again to create an indirect sense of busy trading.
Such back-and-forth trading is not uncommon in NFTs, in part because it usually carries high costs, Victor said. “Unusual speculation is uncommon,” he said of the Beeple sale. “This is a really clever strategy to get more attention around this universe.”
That really happened. But Venkateswaran said attention did not mean that he and Sundaresan made huge profits from tokens. “Statistics don’t add up,” he said.