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Digital-only artwork fetches nearly $90m

20210312001526650590 Digital only artwork fetches nearly 90m

Christie's has auctioned off a digital collage by an artist named Beeple for nearly $US70 million, in an unprecedented sale of a digital artwork that fetched more money than physical works by many better-known artists.

The piece, titled Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, sold for $US69.4 million ($A89.5 million) in an online auction, "positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists", Christie's said via Twitter on Thursday.

Christie's said it also marks the first time a major auction house has offered a digital-only artwork with a non-fungible token as a guarantee of its authenticity, as well as the first time cryptocurrency has been used to pay for an artwork at auction.

Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, responded to the sale result with an expletive on Twitter.

"Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20+ years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it," Beeple said in a statement released by Christie's.

"With NFT's that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art."

Christie's did not identify the buyer of the artwork, which consists of 5000 individual digital pictures stitched together that Beeple created - one each day - since May 2007.

Non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, are electronic identifiers confirming a digital collectible is real by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain.

The tokens have swept the online collecting world recently, an offshoot of the boom in cryptocurrencies. They are used to prove that an item is one of a kind and are aimed at solving a problem central to digital collectibles: how to claim ownership of something that can be easily and endlessly duplicated.

Christie's said the artwork fetched the highest price in an online-only auction and the highest price for any winning bid placed online.

About 22 million people tuned in on the Christie's website for the final moments of bidding, with bidders from 11 countries taking part.

© AP 2021 / Image Credit: (Christie's via AP)