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How two friends made art history by buying $ 70 million worth of digital work

It took a few minutes for Vignesh Sundarasan and Anand Wenger to realize that they had split $ 69.3 million for a digital work of art stored in a JPEG file, casually securing their place in art history.

“We weren’t sure we would win,” the gallery said, describing the frustrating last moments of an online auction for a collage of 5,000 paintings by an artist named Beeple. “We are constantly updating the page.”

At the Christie’s auction in London on March 11, Beeple’s artwork immediately became one of the most expensive pieces ever sold by a living artist, joining David Hockney’s famous pool painting f ff of an elegant sculpture of a rabbit by Koons.

Venkateswaran said he, his friend and business partner Sundarasan, both in their 30s, are still coming to terms with their historic acquisition. They also had to overcome external concerns that the deal could be a complicated scheme to inflate the value of the couple’s investment portfolio.

This is because Venkateswaran և Sundaresan has invested heavily in a new horse in the digital collection under the tasteless name of non-compliant tokens or NFTs. Based on cryptocurrency technology known as blockchain, these digital items act as unique certificates of authenticity, allowing easy-to-copy digital files to become unique collections, sometimes costing tens of millions of dollars.

Beeple’s sales surpassed the record for the most expensive NFT ever sold, sparking a global talk about NFTs, their value, and whether they are a viable complement to the digital landscape. But the eye-catching amount involved has made headlines around the world, raising some suspicions that it could have been developed to draw more attention to NFTs, which could have boosted the pair’s existing stock.

For centuries, the involvement of Christie’s auction house should have been enough to reassure skeptics, said Vancouver, which called from its home in southern India. “I think the bigger problem here is that people thought it was impossible.”

This is definitely the case with Beeple, a real-life digital artist named Mike Winkelmann. “This whole NFT thing was not at all what I saw coming,” he said. At the auction, the artist was in his living room near Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by family and film crew. He said it looked like “a bomb had exploded in the room” as applications were rising rapidly. Another bidder for cryptocurrency, Just Astin Sun, lost at the last minute after bids exceeded his previous high.

The NFT market was already splitting. Transactions quadrupled to $ 250 million last year, according to a report by nonFungible.com. Beeple sales boosted that growth, helping to transform NFTs from landmarks, which mainly captured the nerves of the cryptocurrency to a new type of digital asset that attracted the attention of speculators in the art world, music industry, and sports.

Not to be outdone, auction house rival Sotheby’s plans to sell its own NFT next month in collaboration with pseudo-digital artist Pak.

Winkelmann began to see the potential of NFTs for digital artists back in October, when he tested the waters with the initial “drop” of his work. “People can really master my art, collect it, 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 losing bidders, Sundaresan, who uses the pseudonym Metakovan.

The art world was not a common point of conversation for Sundarasan և Venkestavaran when they first met in 2013 while working for The Hindu daily in Chennai, India. Sundaresan was a technology consultant for 20 things. The gallery was a journalist.

Both had modest upbringing. According to Venkateswaran, Sundaresan could not buy a laptop while he was learning coding, so he walked around with a flash drive to pick up his friends’ notebooks.

But by 2020, Sundares, now living in Singapore, had made a fortune investing in a number of cryptocurrencies. With Sundaresan փող փող և կ կ և քով քով քով::::::::::::::::::

This week, Sundarasan, who declined to be interviewed, created Metakovan’s character as a reference to his love of the virtual world, known as the “metawor.” The name means “King of Meta” in Tamil. The gallery, which lives in Cheney with his wife and two children, is called Tobadur. In a blog post last week, the couple revealed their true identities and tried to dispel some of their motivations.

“The point was to show the Indians, the people of color, that they too could be sponsors, that the cryptocurrency was an equalizing power in the West, in the rest of the world,” he wrote.

It was in December that the Metapurse couple made their first major investment in Beeple, buying their 20 works for $ 2.2 million and donating to the artist 2% of their new N20 fund, called B20, which was designed for large groups of people. : to share the property of a work of art.

It’s Beeple’s “Every Day. The first 5,000 days of historical sales were preceded by a digital file combining the work of Beeple every day from May 2007 until the beginning of this year. Many of them are grotesque, caricatured of what was happening in US politics or pop culture. The work goes back to Beeple, a little-known graphic designer, an internet personality, following in the footsteps of the big Instagram, with pop stars with multimedia projects such as Nicki Minaj and Just Astin Bieber.

“If you look at the face value of each painting, it is obvious that not everyone is going to stand the test of time,” said the Observatory. “All 5,000 are not masterpieces. That was never the argument. Everything Beeple brings out is not gold. We do not worship at his feet. That’s not what we were talking about. It’s more about the combined story he presents. ”

The purchase shocked the art and finance worlds, but was somewhat conventional in nature, said New York art lawyer Leyla Amineddole.

“Many art markets say, ‘I have something unique, it’s scarce, I have it, look at me.’ This is not so different, “he said. “The whole value of NFT can be said to be original. You buy the bragging rights to say, “I am that sign.” But in reality, anyone can access art. ”

Amineddole said blockchain technology, which underlies the NFT’s other cryptocurrency markets, also provides a transparent record of art transactions. However, the sale of cryptocurrency to the skeptics of the unregulated world has led to further research.

Christie’s declined to comment on the details of the financial structure of the sale, except that the total amount was paid in cryptocurrency, known as Ether Define, which means that Christie is accepting cryptocurrency as a payment for the first time.

“Obviously there is a trace of money, Christie’s had a number of exchanges that they were willing to work with, which they checked and approved,” the Observatory said. “And these are the exchanges that were used to make the payment. So Christie’s has all the information. “

Cryptocurrency exchanges can be prone to manipulative behavior, according to a co-authored study by Friedelm Victor of the Technical University of Berlin. But it usually involves investors buying and selling the same assets several times to create a false sense of business.

Such reverse trading has not yet become commonplace with NFTs, in part because they typically charge higher fees, Victor said. “Crazy speculation is not uncommon,” he said of the Beeple sale. “This is a really smart strategy to pay more attention to this whole area.”

That, of course, happened. But the Observatory said that attention does not mean that he աս Sundarasan makes a lot of money from the symbols. “Mathematics does not add up,” he said.


O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island և Chan from London.


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