Mystery Singapore buyer of $93m digital work at Christie's auction revealed

Mr Vignesh Sundaresan, who uses the handle Metakovan, was revealed to be the person who bought the artwork Everydays: The First 5,000 Days. PHOTOS: AFP, VIGNESH SUNDARESAN

SINGAPORE - The mysterious Singapore investor who spent a record US$69 million (S$93 million) worth of cryptocurrency on a digital collage has revealed his identity.

Metakovan, the chief financier of crypto-based fund Metapurse, had caused a stir in the art world when he bought the landmark work by digital artist Beeple at a Christie's auction on March 11.

On Thursday (March 18), after days of intense media coverage and speculation over his real identity, he announced himself to be Mr Vignesh Sundaresan, an "entrepreneur, coder and angel investor" in blockchain technologies.

He and his collaborator Anand Venkateswaran, who goes by the handle Twobadour, revealed their names in an article on Metapurse's Substack account.

The duo said they are immigrants from Tamil Nadu, India. "The point was to show Indians and people of colour that they too could be patrons, that crypto was an equalising power between the West and the Rest, and that the global south was rising."

In an interview with The Straits Times on Google Hangouts on Friday, Metakovan added: "There are countries like India that are thinking of banning crypto. If my story can inspire someone, and (have them) say, 'Let's not ban crypto,' I would be happy to reveal myself for that.

"People should know that we are not doing something nefarious. That should reach people, and not the controversies and random speculations if people don't know who's behind all this. That's the reason I really wanted to come out."

The pair run Metapurse, which claims to be the world's largest non-fungible token (NFT) fund.

The record-smashing artwork, Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, is a virtual mosaic by Beeple, who is also known as Mike Winkelmann.

The image file is linked to an NFT - a non-duplicable digital certificate of ownership for digital assets, that is authenticated using blockchain technology.

Beeple's work, which drew the highest sum anyone has paid for a digital artwork, is also bested only by David Hockney and Jeff Koons for the auction record of any living artist.

Metakovan paid for the work using Ether, the world's second biggest digital coin. Christie's auction house had previously said the work was sold to a Singapore buyer by the name of Metakovan (Tamil for "king of meta") but did not reveal his legal name.

According to Mr Sundaresan's LinkedIn profile, he is also the chief executive of Portkey Technologies, a Singapore-based IT-consulting firm.

In the article, Metakovan and Twobadour wrote about their journeys as crypto enthusiasts and spoke of their vision of a Metaverse, a shared space built on virtual reality, virtual currency and NFTs.

Their first experiment in this space was dubbed the "B.20 project".

Remote video URL

In an auction last December on online marketplace Nifty Gateway, they bought 20 single-edition pieces of Beeple's work for US$2.2 million.

"We then bought prime real estate in virtual worlds, brought in virtual architects to build huge monuments for these iconic pieces, and infused these builds with an original soundscape," they wrote, referring to computer-simulated representations of the world, which people can explore and interact with others in via avatars.

They then bundled up these NFTs, which were then fractionalised and sold as "B20 tokens" to enable shared ownership.

Mr Vignesh Sundaresan and Mr Anand Venkateswaran also paid US $2.2 million for 20 single-edition pieces by artist Mike Winkelmann (pictured), also known as Beeple. PHOTO: AFP/COURTESY OF SCOTT WINKELMANN

Metakovan said in an interview on social audio app Clubhouse last week that the bundle's market capitalisation had gone up to US$200 million.

In their article, they added that they are also launching a Metapurse Fellowship, which kicks off with a US$500,000 purse.

"In this first edition, we offer $100,000 to five storytellers - writers, producers, content makers- spread across 12 monthly stipends."

Applicants, they added, should have a portfolio of work and have personally created at least one NFT.

They should also not be "anti-coiners" - that is, people who do not have cryptocurrency in their investment portfolio, and who believe cryptocurrency will fail.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.