OLines of art formed outside the entrance to the Jack Hanley Gallery in Manhattan when Beeple recently opened its first gallery exhibition: it promised the first two hundred visitors a poster as a gift, fans said to journalists. A poster – how old fashioned for an NFT artist who wants to revolutionize the art world. But for Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple, whose “Eerydays: The First 5000 Days” NFT, which sold at Christie’s for $60.5 million last year, marked the start of the global NFT boom, fans of Art, blockchain enthusiasts and celebrities like artist Jimmy have crowded around Fallon in the Tribeca neighborhood.
The images, which he has now shown physically in a gallery for the first time under the title “Uncertain Future” (Uncertain Future), were sold immediately – at prices of 75,000 to 300,000 dollars. Of course, each work has an NFT which guarantees its authenticity. There are large format prints on aluminum or smaller oil paintings with apocalyptic scenes that Beeple designed on the computer from 2021 to 2022 in his well-known style between science fiction, cartoons, memes and satire. The focus is on the network companies Facebook (now Meta), Amazon, Google and Netflix: their brand names shine brightly in the gray of the destroyed landscapes. In a desert of mud in front of industrial factories, the head of Jeff Bezos is gigantic, as if severed. The image is called “You Got Mail”. On “Zuckerborg V2,” brains swell from the head of an oversized Mark Zuckerberg surrounded by tiny people in hazmat suits. The aesthetic is reminiscent of “Robocop” or “Mad Max”. Where naked women on their knees donate their blood – a symbol of data – to an oversized robot, Beeple draws inspiration from the science fiction genre.
Criticism is futile
Not everything is subtle. It doesn’t get any more impressive because Beeple has only existed virtually as image files on the internet or as NFTs on the blockchain. A large format called “Toxic Masculinity,” which shows Bezos’ head covered in male genitalia, may look even more monstrous in a gallery than on a display. Beeple’s criticism of the network giants is superficial: it wouldn’t be what it is without the industry. The support for its success clashes even more violently with the destroyed landscapes in the photos: according to estimates, NFTs worth between 25 and 41 billion dollars were exchanged in 2021. The energy consumption of blockchain technology , which underpins the cryptographic “minting” of coveted ownership certificates, is enormous – and contributing to global warming.
Winkelmann says he is working to make his factories “climate neutral” – for example by investing in climate protection projects. Other artists like Joanie Lemercier have said goodbye to NFT because of power consumption. Still others are waiting for the Ethereum blockchain to go into a power-saving procedure, as announced for some time. Be that as it may, NFTs are becoming more and more present. Mark Zuckerberg’s recently announced Meta plans to make NFT an integral part of its metaverse. The creators of NFT are increasingly recognized. In an interview, Marcus Fox, Global Managing Director at Christie’s, assures that the fear of a speculative bubble is disappearing. Now we can see which NFT artists stayed and actually had “the power to stay”. No one has more than Beeple at the moment.