NEW YORK • After a flurry of more than 180 bids in the final hour, a JPG file made by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, was sold on Thursday by auction company Christie's in an online auction for US$69.3 million (S$93 million) with fees.
The price was a new high for an artwork that exists only digitally, beating auction records for phy-sical paintings by museum-valorised greats such as J.M.W. Turner, Georges Seurat and Francisco Goya.
Bidding at the two-week Beeple sale, consisting of just one lot, began at US$100.
With seconds remaining, the work was set to sell for less than US$30 million, but a last-moment cascade of bids prompted a two-minute extension of the auction and pushed the final price over US$60 million.
Christie's spokesman Rebecca Riegelhaupt said 33 active bidders had contested the work, adding that the result was the third-highest auction price achieved for a living artist, after Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
Billed by the auction house as "a unique work in the history of digital art", Everydays - The First 5000 Days is a collage of all the images that Beeple has been posting online each day since 2007.
The artist, who has collaborated with Louis Vuitton and pop stars such as Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, uses software to create an irreverent visual commentary on 21st-century life.
Beeple's collaged JPG was made, or "minted", last month as a "nonfungible token" or NFT - an asset verified using blockchain technology, in which a network of computers records transactions and gives buyers proof of authenticity and ownership. Most pay with the Ethereum cryptocurrency.
Everydays was the first purely digital NFT sold by Christie's, and it offered to accept payment in Ethereum, another first for the 255-year-old auction house.
Mr Todd Levin, a New York art adviser, said he had "mixed emotions" about the Beeple sale.
"On the one hand, it is super exciting to witness a historical inflection point," said Mr Levin. "On the other hand, the amount of money involved could skew and damage a nascent emerging market."
Christie's record-breaking auction was held at a moment when the mainstream art world has become transfixed by the fast-moving, speculative market for NFTs, which have recently achieved exceptional prices on specialist websites such as Open Sea, Nifty Gateway, Super Rare and Makers Place.