Beeple: The Digital Artist Who Won the World, Surprises by Turning His Eye to Traditional Art

Everyone knows that Beeple is the digital artist who sold an NFT art piece for 69 million dollars. But what makes Beeple so special? What are the peculiarities that made graphic designer Mike Winkelmann the most successful living artist in the art market?

Beeple, in fact, is the pseudonym of Michael Joseph Winkelmann, an experienced 41-year-old graphic designer with an easy smile, who lives in Charleston, North Carolina, with his wife and two children. 

Surrounded by several screens connected to the CNN and Fox News channels, the creative studio Space is a large shed where Beeple works with the help of some employees and brings his works to life with inspiration from the Daily News.

With a provocative style, Winkelmann creates satirical animations like Mickey Mouse breastfeeding with huge breasts, or Buzz Lightyear with Pikachu’s head on the body of a woman with her breasts exposed in the middle of the American army. Through the reinterpretation of well-known characters, Beeple exposes his critical way of looking at the world.

In addition to digital arts, his skills include short films, VJ loops (released under the Creative Commons license) and the use of VR and AR technologies. In his extensive client portfolio, the designer has names such as Eminem, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Zedd as well as collaborations with brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, Apple, and many others.

The Importance of Beeple for Contemporary Art

Although many art critics do not validate his work, the truth is that he is the most popular living artist in the trade. Like it or not, Beeple has already written his name in the history of art and the “Winkelmann movement” is already happening.

Just as cryptocurrencies are revolutionizing the financial market, NFTs inaugurate a new phase for Contemporary Art. The big difference is undoubtedly accessibility. Artists can exhibit their works autonomously and trade them directly to potential clients with the security of the blockchain technology (check out our article on this topic) which provides security to encrypted artwork, giving them a seal of authenticity.

Ironically, by transforming, without great pretensions, his art into an NFT, Winkelmann saw his work being auctioned off for a fortune that, until then, only belonged to great names in art history such as Gustav Klimt or Vincent Van Gogh, causing a great uproar in the art market as a whole. Proof of this is that Beeple has already guaranteed spots at the renowned Venice Biennale, Documenta Fifteen, in Germany and Art Basel in Switzerland, under the tutelage of the award-winning curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art in Turin, Italy.

In addition to devoting himself to the study of art history, Beeple has now a new challenge. His effervescent mind desires to transform the Space in an immersive place, bringing experiences like augmented reality to his audience. For example, he recently produced the physical work “Human One”, a large revolving box with an astronaut walking through an imaginary world that will be continuously updated by the artist. 

Beeple and Madonna: Artistic partnership for a noble cause

Confirming his generous side, as the artist’s work has always been widely released free of charge under Creative Commons* licenses, Beeple signs, in partnership with the singer Madonna, the project “Mother of Creation” where all profits from sales will go to organizations focused on mothers and children around the world in vulnerable situations. 

The project consists of a set of three works created from the vision of the singer’s mother mixed in with the artistic expression of the designer. 

As officially presented on the portal “Mother of Creation”, the first work is called Mother of Nature: In a cold laboratory environment, with no sign of life, an opening gives way to a branch that turns into a tree full of life. It pushes against gravity and flowers bloom. The tree may bend or even break, but it continues to self-recreate and bloom.

The second work, entitled Mother of Evolution, addresses the metamorphosis journey of butterflies, which are one of nature’s most beautiful creations and a sign of hope. The work features lyrics from Madonna’s iconic song Justify My Love. 

And closing the loop, Mother of Technology presents itself in a beautiful forest, depicting the way science can also give light to the world, but only if used with the right consciousness.

Although his numbers cause a certain distrust, Beeple says he is focused on creating a greater emotional connection and usefulness with his works within the crypto art universe.

*Creative Commons is an Attribution License where authors specify the way their works can be used. CC content usually does not require advance permission or payment of a fee to the author.

Article and Research | Roberta Rodrigues
Translation | Carol Martins
Share this Post