Beeple and NFTs: 60 Minutes+ reports on a new digital era for fine art

Laurie Segall speaks with Mike Winkelmann, the artist known as Beeple, who made history with a $69 million sale of a digital piece of artwork. See the story now, streaming only on Paramount+

60 Minutes+ reports on NFTs and Beeple
60 Minutes+ reports on NFTs and Beeple 05:04

In March, for the first time, Christie's auctioned off a purely digital piece of artwork, selling "Everydays - the First 5,000 Days" for $69 million. The 255-year-old British auction house accepted cryptocurrency for the purchase, also a first.

The artist behind "Everydays" is 39-year-old Mike Winkelmann, better known as "Beeple." He watched the auction from his bedroom near Charleston, South Carolina.

"It was still just, like, you know, here we are six weeks, seven weeks later, whatever," he said. "And I'm still just like, 'That does not seem right. I don't feel like that actually happened."

As of October, the most Beeple had made selling a piece of his art was $100, but he had been working on "Everydays" for more than a decade. It's a digital art time capsule -- a collage of 5,000 pieces of digital art he's created every day for the last 13 years.

Correspondent Laurie Segall profiled Beeple for a 60 Minutes+ report streaming now on Paramount+. He told her how "Everydays" first started to take shape in May 2007.

"I didn't, at that time, say, 'I'm gonna do this every single day of my life,'" Beeple said. "It was more like I wanted to get better at drawing. I saw an illustrator in the UK named Tom Judd, who did-- a sketch a day. And I thought, 'Oh, that's a really cool way to sort of just incrementally improve.'"

He said he's never missed a day. Not when his wife gave birth. Not on their wedding day. Over the years, his daily posts of "Everydays" won him millions of fans on social media. But there was never a way for enthusiasts to actually own his art because it lives on the internet, until he discovered what's called a non-fungible token - an NFT - last year.

"Everydays: the First 5000 Days" was sold as an NFT - a unique computer code that provides a digital certificate of authenticity. NFTs make it possible for people to own and collect digital goods. Transactions happen in cryptocurrency and U.S. dollars. For example, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for nearly $3 million.

"And it's very much like the early days of the internet," Beeple told Segall. "Whereas, 'Well, what is the internet? What is the use case for the internet?' Well-- there's a million use cases, we're still figuring them all out because they're endless. And that's what I look at NFTs is."

"It's really just proving ownership," he said. "So that ownership of what? And-- and that's where I think there's just massive, massive possibilities."

One industry expert told Segall the sale of "Everydays" ushered the art world into an uncomfortable era. See the report now on 60 Minutes+, streaming only on Paramount+.