"Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" is now the most expensive "non-fungible token" piece ever sold, a sign of longterm confidence in the burgeoning market that creates collectable digital assets by transforming virtual work into something own-able.

FILE PHOTO: "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5,000 DAYS" is a collage, by a digital artist BEEPLE, that is on auction at Christie's, unknown location, in this undated handout obtained by Reuters. (Reuters)

A digital artwork has been sold for nearly $70 million at Christie's, in the first ever sale by a major auction house of a piece of art that does not exist in physical form.

"Everydays - The First 5000 Days" is a digital work by American artist Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple. It is a collage of 5,000 individual images, which were made one-per-day over more than 13 years.

The sale of the work for $69,346,250 put Beeple in the top three most valuable living artists, Christie's said in a Tweet.

A shot from a collage
A shot from a collage "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" (Reuters)
Another detail shot from a collage
Another detail shot from a collage "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" (Reuters)

The work is in the form of a new type of digital asset, a Non-Fungible Token (NFT), meaning it is authenticated by blockchain, which certifies its originality and ownership.

The market for NFTs has soared in recent months as enthusiasts and investors use spare savings to buy up items that exist online. Last month, a 10-second video clip featuring an image of a fallen Donald Trump, also by Beeple, sold for $6.6 million on an NFT marketplace called Nifty Gateway.

"Without the NFTs, there just legitimately was no way to collect digital art," said Beeple, who specialises in irreverent digital art that explores themes such as technology, wealth and American politics.

Asked what he thought of the multi-million dollar bids on his work, the 39-year-old graphic designer, who has created concert visuals for the likes of Justin Bieber, One Direction and Katy Perry, said he was lost for words.

"I don't know ... maybe you can put an emoji into the story" he said. "It's so crazy."

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A detail shot from a collage
A detail shot from a collage "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" (Reuters)

For NFTs, the artist's royalties are locked in to the contract: Beeple receives 10 percent each time the NFT changes hands after the initial sale.

"I do really think that this is going to be seen as the next chapter of art history" Beeple said.

"Everydays" is based on a long-term project: beginning on May 1, 2007, when he was still a bored web designer, he sought to create a work of art each day, without interruption, in order to progress in drawing and graphic design.

Now, 5,062 consecutive days later, "Everydays" brings together in digital form his first 5,000 pieces, beginning with a simple image of his Uncle Jim and ending on a detailed graphic portrait of characters from Donald Trump to Buzz Lightyear to Michael Jackson, depicted as dystopian muses around a child drawing.

One more from a collage
One more from a collage "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS" (Reuters)

Since 2007 Beeple has accumulated nearly two million Instagram followers and collaborated with major brands and famous musicians, attracted by his graphic universe.

But he had never sold any work under his own name until recently, when a new technology catapulted him into orbit as one of the most fashionable artists in the world.

NFTs are collectible digital assets that use blockchain technology to turn virtual work into something unique, with a documented provenance that cannot be altered, guaranteeing authenticity and making the work own-able.

That goes for pretty much anything on the internet where, previously, content by its nature was easy to duplicate.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies