The most expensive NFT artworks have some similarities to physical artworks in terms of creativity and aesthetics. The difference lies in the fact that they are NFTs, which are merely a code – digital art that exists only online.
Due to the Beeple artwork that sold for USD 69.3 million in 2021, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become the “it” thing. One of the most expensive NFT artworks is by Beeple or Larva Labs, a company that entered this market early on.
Some of these are creatively futuristic and lead artists to record major feats. As an example, the REPLICATOR by Canadian artist Mad Dog Jones, whose real name is Michah Dowbak, replicates itself every 28 days and produces a new NFT.
The artwork sold for USD 4.1 million in April 2021, making Mad Dog Jones Canada’s most expensive living artist. It comes from seven generations of artworks, according to its seller, Phillips art auction house.
Nevertheless, the prices of artworks sold by the NFT have skyrocketed. Based on the sales figures, all the most expensive NFT artworks were purchased in 2021, even though some were created around four years ago.
This proves that the market for expensive NFT art has just begun to flourish, with much to expect in the future.
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The Merge: USD 91.8 million
The Merge is a unique digital artwork in the world of NFTs because, instead of being a single piece of work, The Merge is, what can be called, fragmented art.
Created by the renowned artist who goes by the pseudonym Pak, The Merge was sold on NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway between 2 and 4 December 2021. It fetched a record sum of USD 91.8 million — the most expensive NFT ever sold that is an artwork.
Instead of a single owner, The Merge is held by 28,983 collectors. This is because the artwork was sold in units known as ‘mass’. Thus, the collectors together bought a total of 266,445 masses by the time the sale ended on 4 December.
Each ‘mass’ cost USD 575 when the sale began. The price of the tokens went up by USD 25 every six hours.
Everydays – The First 5000 Days: USD 69.3 million
Acclaimed digital artist Mike Winklemann, better known as Beeple, created a record when his single piece artwork titled Everydays – The First 5000 Days sold for USD 69.3 million at a Christie’s auction on 11 March 2021. Therefore, it is the most expensive NFT sale recorded for an artwork by Beeple.
The artwork is so named because it is a collage of 5,000 individual images made one per day over more than thirteen years from 2007 to 2020 by Beeple.
It was the first purely digital NFT-based artwork offered by a major auction house. Following the sale, Christie’s said Beeple now ranked among the “top three most valuable living artists.”
Its buyer, MetaKovan, later revealed as crypto investor Vignesh Sundaresan, called it “a steal” while talking to The New York Times.
The costliest single-piece NFT artwork, Everydays – The First 5000 Days, is credited by many as the sale that started the NFT boom through 2021. It also catapulted Beeple and his works into an even bigger league, with collaborations with Nike and Katy Perry.
Human One: USD 28.9 million
On 9 November 2021, Beeple had his second-most successful NFT artwork sale. At an auction hosted by Christie’s, the American artist’s creation, Human One, went under the hammer for USD 28.9 million. The buyer was Swiss entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ryan Zurrer.
Human One is remarkably different from Everydays: The First 5,000 Days — the former is a hybrid digital and physical artwork, whereas the latter does not physically exist.
Beeple created a futuristic human-like sculpture, which was seven feet tall and appears to be perpetually walking across ever-changing landscapes. The 3D movement is presented through four video screens of 16K resolution, which come together to form a 4×4-feet box.
According to Christie’s, the kinetic video sculpture came with dual media servers and had a polished aluminium metal, mahogany wood frame.
Speaking to Christie’s head of digital sales Noah Davis, Beeple said, “We had a bunch of TVs on rollers in our studio and were rolling them around in different shapes and patterns. Then I was like: ‘We should roll them into a little box unit.’…We immediately realised that this configuration of screens was a powerful canvas — anything we put on it looked awesome.”
Human One was sold with a corresponding dynamic NFT, which was minted on 28 October 2021. The unique feature of the work is that Beeple will continue to have remote access and creative control over it. This means that the artist can change the creative elements, such as the landscape, as long as he is alive.
“The Physical Element is designed to continuously display the Artwork. Beeple will maintain remote access to the Physical Element to ensure proper functionality and/or enhance the displayed Artwork. Beeple warrants that the Physical Element does not contain any features designed to impair the continuous display of the Artwork,” Christie’s said in its description of Human One.
CryptoPunk #7523: USD 11.75 million
CryptoPunks have long been one of the most sought-after tokens in the NFT space. One of the earliest NFT projects, CryptoPunks, was launched in 2017. A creation of Larva Labs, the acclaimed studio founded by Canadian developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson.
CryptoPunks is essentially a collection of 10,000 tokens called ‘punks’ by their creators and collectors. Often considered the OG NFT collection, each is a collectible character — much like a trading card. No two ‘punks’ are the same, which makes each CryptoPunk an exclusive item.
On 10 June 2021, CryptoPunk #7523 was sold for USD 11.75 million at a Sotheby’s auction, making it the most expensive ‘punk’ of all the collections. #7523 is one of the nine in the Alien series of the collection.
The bluish-green-skinned character wears a knitted cap and earrings, too. It is also the only Alien character and one of the 175 in the collection with a medical mask.
According to Reuters, Sotheby’s revealed the token was bought by Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Meckenzie — the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings.
CryptoPunk #3100: USD 7.58 million
On the same day Beeple created history, a crypto art, known as CryptoPunk #3100, was sold for USD 7.58 million. Like #7523, the #3100 is also one of the nine Alien ‘punks’. It has bluish-green skin and just one other feature — a white-and-blue headband. Only 406 out of 10,000 in the collection wear a headband and only 333 have just one attribute.
At the time of its sale, CryptoPunk #3100 was the highest-priced ‘punk’, beating the record set by #7804 a day before by just a whisker.
It has been in the news for some time because of its listed price. According to Larva Labs, it is currently up for sale for USD 114.54. If realised, it would become the highest-priced NFT in history.
CryptoPunk #7804: USD 7.57 million
The ‘punk’, which looks more like Sherlock Holmes with shades, is another of the nine Aliens among the 10,000. On 10 March 2021, it made news for fetching USD 7.57 million for its seller, Figma CEO Dylan Field, who had dubbed it his “digital Mona Lisa.”
The pipe-smoking character wears small shades and is one of the 254 who wears their cap forward. Unlike #3100, the #7804 is not up for sale.
Right-click and Save As guy: USD 7.09 million
Xcopy is the pseudonym of a London-based crypto artist whose works are one of the most in-demand across marketplaces. According to The Crypto Times, Xcopy, who is known for his dystopian- and death-themed works, has sold over 1,900 artworks.
The Right-click and Save As guy is the name of an NFT artwork created by the artist as a joke on those who think that NFTs are worthless because they can simply be right-clicked and downloaded.
The artwork shows a character wearing large shades and a hoodie. Its red-tinted lips are constantly moving, as if mumbling something.
Right-click and Save As the
guy was sold on the super rare marketplace for USD 7.08 million in early December 2021. It was bought by the user known online as ‘Cozomo de Medici’, who has a vast storehouse of NFT digital collectibles.
Some speculate that ‘Cozomo de Medici’ is the alias of rapper Snoop Dogg. Even though the American celebrity admitted that he is the man behind the identity, it has not been independently verified.
Ringers 109: USD 6.9 million
Ringers #109 is an artwork by Art Blocks, which is a project that creates loops around pegs using an algorithm. The artwork can be a 3D image, an interactive feature, or a static picture.
Ringers #109 is a static image of a series of loops around multiple pegs. The dominant colour is black on a white background. The balanced wrap orientation, the loop and the white background are three very rare attributes in Art Blocks’ creations. The rarest is, however, a red peg — the colour is present in just 0.3 percent of its tokens.
The NFT was sold for USD 6.9 million in October 2021 — a record price for Art Blocks. It is not clear who bought the NFT but according to The Crypto Times, the seller was AKIRA, co-founder of NarcissusGLRY, who revealed the sale on Twitter.
According to AKIRA, the NFT was bought by them for USD 550 in March 2021.
A Coin for the Ferryman: USD 6.01 million
One of the earliest works by Xcopy, A Coin for the Ferryman was sold on SuperRare for USD 6.01 million on 4 November 2021.
The artwork is a GIF, showing constantly changing expressions on a person’s face. It was minted by Xcopy on 20 April 2018.
At the time, it was bought by a user named @0xclipse for USD 139. In 2019, it was transferred to a user named @electricmeat who eventually sold it on SuperRare to the current owner @jpeggy.
Ocean Front: USD 6 million
Beeple’s Ocean Front is much more than one of the most expensive NFT artworks. It is a telling reminder to the world of the impending disaster that unchecked climate change is set to bring.
The artwork is part of Beeple’s “Everydays” series. It shows a series of trailers and containers stacked upon each other on a platform in the middle of an ocean. At the top of the dystopian man-made objects is a tree, underneath which mushrooms can be seen growing.
The artwork was bought on 23 March 2021 following intense bidding on Nifty Gateway by Justin Sun, the founder and CEO of the Tron Foundation, for USD 6 million. Beeple himself announced the winner and the winning bid on Twitter.
Following the transaction, Sun tweeted that proceeds from the sale to Open Earth Foundation — an NGO working to tackle climate change.