Home Entertainment The digital naif Beeple is the artist of the year. Third after Jeff Koons and David Hockney, in millionaire sales. But he in NFT

The digital naif Beeple is the artist of the year. Third after Jeff Koons and David Hockney, in millionaire sales. But he in NFT

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Beeple works in a room with no paintings on the walls, with two 65-inch screens side by side: one always on on CNN, the other on Fox News; both without sound. “I never change the channel and I always leave the volume at zero,” he said, who speaks of it as his “windows to the outside world.” To work and create his works, Beeple instead uses a pair of screens connected to computers located in another room, with cables running through a hole in the wall. For his work, the computers get very hot, and so he has to keep them suspended above the bathtub. It’s a digital naive Mike Winkelmann, and for the Journal of the Art is the artist of the year. And there are those who claim that it is only the first of the taxes that will arrive by 2021 also from abroad (Il Times is about to dedicate a large article to him in the cultural pages). Certainly he would never have expected it 25 years ago – when he began painstakingly to create a work of art a day starting with a portrait of his uncle Jim that Ligabue would have liked to arrive, five decades later, to sell the third most expensive opera ever after Rabbit by Jeff Koons e Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) di David Hockney.

Beeple achieved this thanks to Everydays: The First 5000 Days, a 21,069 x 21,069 pixel collage of his first five thousand daily works, sold at Christie’s auction for $ 69.3 million. Novelty in the novelty the work was sold as NFT: a work of art certified as authentic and unique, but existing only in digital format. On May 1, 2007, 25-year-old Mike Winkelmann decided that from that day on he would create something artistic every day. He began with a drawing by his uncle Jim, nicknamed Uber Jay. Over five thousand days later Mike – now known as Beeple (he chose this digital nickname in homage to a plush toy from the 1980s, which reacted in its own way to certain visual and sound stimuli) is the author of the third most expensive work ever among those sold of an artist still alive, Sold as NFT: that is, as a work of art certified as authentic and unique, but existing only in digital format. «They are proofs of ownership, which point towards a certain file and say ‘this thing is yours’» as Beeple himself defined them. Top left in Everydays: The First 5000 Days (which cost about 15 thousand dollars for each of the works that compose it) you can see, among the many small images, the prehistoric drawing that portrays Uncle Jim.

On Instagram 2 million followers

In addition to being the best-known digital artist ever – followed, only on Instagram, by over two million users – and in addition to being the character most often associated with the new NFT phenomenon, Beeple in recent years has collaborated with brands, characters and famous celebrities. But although he is in fact the artist of the moment, in his interviews he claims to have few artistic skills and to have to improve a lot from a technical point of view.

The result of all this is a banal production destined to be soon forgotten according to some critics, interesting or at least representative of the historical moment according to others. For many digital art, cryptocurrency or online investing enthusiasts, it’s simply a production worth millions of dollars for.

The identikit

Forty-year-old Mike Winkelmann was born and raised in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a city of 5,000 in a state of the Great Lakes region in the north of the United States. The father worked as an electronic engineer and the mother in a senior center. He graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from an Indiana university not far from Wisconsin. The idea, he recently said, “was to be a video game programmer” but then he realized that it was “boring” and wouldn’t do it for him. After “sweating his degree”, he then found a job as a web designer. Now Winkelmann lives in a simple house in a quiet residential area of ​​Charleston, South Carolina: he is married to a former teacher, has two children and, at least until a few weeks ago, owned, as per his own admission, a “fucking and battered Toyota Corolla ». The New York Times highlighted his “imperturbable behavior” and an aspect that “makes one think of one of those technical assistance guys”, while the New Yorker wrote that “it does not resemble the idea that one can have of a record artist, and indeed it seems to resemble more a possible appearance of The Office“. And he added that he certainly didn’t do any major art history studies, because to a question that called abstract expressionism into question he replied “I really have no idea what the hell it is.”

In 2007, when Uncle Jim began drawing, almost no one knew Beeple and for a long time no one considered his works. Although he had almost no artistic experience, he began after learning that British artist Tom Judd had started drawing a drawing a day. At the time he already had some experience in the use of some graphics and animation programs with which he had also been noticed, but for his new project he chose to try his hand at something he had never done: drawings with pen and paper.

“The fear of starting every day”

Interviewed in 2010 byAtlantic, therefore already after more than 1,500 daily works, Beeple said that «starting something new every day» was a way «to overcome the fear of starting something new, but also to overcome the fear of finishing something». Beeple never skipped a single day, and year after year he began to create more complex works, made using first programs like Photoshop and then, among others, Cinema 4D, which he continues to use today. In 2017, ten years after the beginning of his works, he told Vice that the day his daughter would later be born, before taking his wife already in labor to the hospital, he took five minutes to do a quick work. At the beginning of 2020, when his name was already beginning to make itself known even outside digital art, Beeple spoke to The Verge of his nearly five thousand works. He said that, since he was the father of two children, he usually started having them after putting them to bed, but also that over the years he had happened to work there “in airports, bars and emergency rooms” and that he is now become a habit, “like brushing your teeth.” He also added: “It’s really unrealistic to think that every day I can sit down, be super-inspired, take the time to make a piece of art and say ‘wow, that’s great’.

The automatic generator of works of art

Four macro-periods can be identified in Beeple’s production. An early period of relatively simple drawings and cartoons; a second more abstract and digital period; a third period that can be defined as science fiction and a last period, let’s say from 2018 onwards, which has often added a sort of political and social satire to the various previous elements. Among his thousands of works you can find a bit of everything, but in recent years certain elements and certain political and popular culture figures often return: from Buzz Lightyear to Kim Jong Un, from Donald Trump to Mickey Mouse, from Pikachu to Michael Jackson . There are references to current events of all kinds – from the death of George Floyd to the disbandment of Daft Punk. Beeple’s images are poised between dreamlike and satirical, they draw from science fiction, memes and everything that becomes viral on social media. They have a very recognizable graphic style, to the point that someone has thought of creating an automatic generator of Beeple’s works: beeplegenerator.com is in fact a site that allows anyone to produce their own Beeple-style NFT, download it and do what they want with it. Just click on “New Beeple” and select the version that convinces us the most. Before downloading the image, you can rotate it to choose the ideal angle and point of view.

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