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I'm Kara Swisher, and you're listening to Sway People has had a pretty good month. The artist whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, made history when Christie's auction house sold his digital collage. The piece spanned 13 years of his daily artworks or every, as he calls them online bidding started at one hundred dollars.


It's sold for over sixty nine million.


That's the third highest price earned by a living artist at auction, putting people just behind Jeff Koons and David Hockney. And yes, he was just as shocked as everyone else going to Disney World.


But what's captured everyone's attention isn't just the money which was paid in cryptocurrency is what you get for the money or rather what you don't get. This isn't a frame painting that you hang in your living room. Instead, the piece is a non fungible token for not a one of a kind digital asset that's verified by blocking. In other words, it's kind of like owning an encrypted jpeg. Crypto billionaires and boxing nerds have been talking about images for years now.


It's hitting the mainstream and people is one of its most visible success stories.


He might seem like an unlikely virtuoso. His recent Every Day is of the look of pulpy sci fi. But Turkey getting all a child holding Bud Light years bloodied head a double headed Clinton Trump robot with milk shooting out of its breast. Then again, maybe he's exactly the right person to usher in this bizarro frontier of NFTE. Mike, welcome or should I call you people, you can just call me Mike good because. Weird, I know. Call me.


Don't you dare call me. My name from high school was wishy washy, so let's not get into these things. So and then which makes a lot more sense. But explain people. It's like a fuzzy like iwalk looking thing.


I get over there heads, it's, it's like toy from the eighties. It kind of like beeps and makes it sound. They're not that popular. If you look at just Google people toy and you can see what they look like. Again, this is something I named myself like 20 years ago and why and I did not expect to be answering this question 20 years later. Right. Because it is an artist moment of artistic reverie or what?


In my words, more so. Like when you cover its eyes, it beeps. And so it like when you change the light, it beeps. And so there's this sort of interplay between light and sound. And the first work that I did looks nothing like the work you see now. And it was really very like abstract audio visual, like tightly synched audio and video. So that's why I did it sort of that that interplay between light and sound.


I see. So you happen to like this toy who gave it to you? So our family actually gave it to my grandma. And then and if this wasn't a toy I had growing up, we gave it to her when I was like ten or so. And then somehow I just took it back like five years later, ten years later. And that was that was a good thing.


It wasn't light, bright or something like that. That would have been a different name for you. So Mike Winkelmann, I'm going to call you Mike. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. So wait, before this auction, you were creating digital art and showcasing it in places like Instagram and Twitter. That's where you started sharing every day's. This is a project you started, I think it was May twenty seven where you created and post new digital artwork every day.


Talk about this effort and why you wanted to do this. Yeah, so when I started this out, the first one was May 1st. Twenty seven. I wanted to get better at drawing and I had sworn an illustrator out of the UK named Tom Judd, who did like a sketch a day in his sketchbook, and he did it for like about a year in like I think I thought that was a cool way to sort of like incrementally improve.


And so I started doing a drawing every day and, like, posting it online. Again, this was just on my website. Literally nobody was seeing it besides my mom and my three friends. And so I did that for like a year. And if you look at the Kristie's piece, actually, you can see all of those drawings in the upper left hand corner. They're all sort of like there. And the lower right hand corner is the last of the like five thousand day.


And so after a year, I learned a lot. It had pushed me to sort of like try a bunch of new techniques. And so after that, I was like, well, what if I use that same thing to teach myself a three D program, which I didn't know? And when I say three D program, it's similar to what they make, like Pixar movies. Yes. Splain the art telling this software work. Yeah.


So the software basically has it's like a 3-D world where you can place any sort of objects or build any sort of objects and then you have lights, virtual lights that you place and place them around the people and then you have a virtual camera and you basically shoot a picture of the people. The way I work now is really almost like I have a giant collection of 3D models. There's marketplaces where you can buy, there's thousands upon thousands. You type in bike, here's know eight hundred bikes, which bike do you want?


And so you can just buy these models and then you can like use them and stuff. And so I can with one click pull those end of the scene and then I can sort of pose them, put them wherever I want to, scale them up, scale them down. It's almost like playing with like toys. I've got the biggest, best toy collection. I could break them apart and put a new head on, a new body on new arms on whatever, and then sort of set up these scenes and take a picture of it.


I don't want to compare it to ClipArt, but it's doing a collage online, correct. Of some, but in a 3D format. Yeah, it's like that because again, I'm taking these assets that I had not built and sort of putting them together in sort of a bunch of different ways.


And by the way, the one you dropped last night was something else. The Illit non-functional Elan. I describe the picture for people.


It's a picture of a like super jacked Elon holding up a trophy, riding one of those. And what are the dogs sheep, the the Dodge dog. And then there's a bunch of people sort of like looking at it like and there's like piles of money around them, dodge coins or whatever, which is what his his new favorite thing is just to screw with people.


But in the case of Nonfunctional Elon, what was the prompt for that?


So the prompt was Elon tweeted this, I'm got this NFTE and I'm going to sell it. And it said, you know, it was this like Vanity Trophy thing making fun of Mufti's and. So then I tweeted at him that I would buy it for sixty nine million dollars, and then he replied that he would accept Donge coin. And so they're having fun with Elon on the Twitter.


OK, so that's what I was just kind of this stupid, like playing off of him, like, well, I didn't need to see that.


That's all I have to say. You start watching this stuff now, you'll see that that's actually probably one of the more like, wow, that was the yo yo, look back on that in three weeks and you'll be like, wow, that was actually pretty nice. That was pretty nice and good.


I think you had me at the turkey having sex with the turkey that that one that really spoke to me.


And so it's so funny because, like, really just in the last year or two that I started sort of going down this weird sort of rabbit hole of just super bizarre techno boob thing, milking things. You know, it's it's just gotten weird, actually, quite recently. All right. So what has changed?


What has changed? Why you go down that rabbit hole of food? Why would you do that? Why would you do that to yourself and your family? It's just I don't know, like I just started making the pictures that I really wanted to see, I think. And then I think those pictures are closer to, like, my personality. And it's just kind of it's not something where I'm like super conscious, like I'm going to go down this this rabbit hole.


It's more just like it appeals to you each day. Yeah. It's just each day. What is the picture I'm most excited about making?


And a lot of times now it's pretty weird what got you into doing the digital art versus, you know, people have done this with art, with people use pieces they find all over the place. Jeff Koons comes to mind. Why did you get into this where you an art, a visual artist before or what happened that you moved you to this area? Sure.


So I went to school for computer science, actually, and I wanted to do, you know, program video games. And sort of halfway through the degree, I realized I was spending all my time just making weird art things. And so I kind of slog through the degree, finished it and got a job doing web design. And I was always very interested in computers and sort of very interested in art. And so it always kind of made sense to to sort of bring the two together.


And it was did you take art classes, the more traditional drawing or things like that? I took to art classes in high school. There was just a wonderful book that has all the beautiful digital. It's been done since the early, early computer days. It's some of it's amazing. And it was it was much less thought of as art. Talk a little bit about that. Why you think that is? I don't know. It's honestly, to me, it seems when I heard people and people over the last three weeks, the tradition people from the digital world have sort of said that this is an art.


It's like, OK, is literally has all of the same things as any other painting, except it's on the digital canvas. Like, to me that just seems like the most silly argument like that. This is not art. It's like because you can't touch it necessarily because you can't touch it.


It's kind of like, OK, but that's the thing. You can touch it like that. My art has to be sort of like manifest like you. You're going to see it in the real world, like we live in the real world. We don't live in like we're not jacked in the Matrix yet, allegedly. So, like, you're going to see it somehow. Yeah. And so you're either going to see it on a computer screen, you're going to see it on iPhone phone screen.


And so that's where I've been like really sort of excited about figuring out ways to bring these into the physical world in interesting ways. So with the last drop I did before this, I had these digital video frame basically screens. And so that's going to be something I'm going to keep pushing on.


So so what the reaction has been fascinating. Let me I want to get to that in a second. So were you able to monetize your art when you were doing this or when you were doing the 5000 days?


So not directly. But what it did do is it made me a very popular designer. And so I was doing a really good client work, you know, some of the best client work we did in space. Speaking of which, I did yeah. I did some concepts for Space X, you know, Apple, Nike, Bob Louis Vuitton used a bunch of that. Every day is on the on the spring collection a couple of years ago, the last couple of Super Bowls, tons and tons of concert visuals.


But obviously I wasn't making like millions of dollars a year to tens of millions now. Right. But you were doing designs all over the place? Yeah, I was doing designs. And it was sort of like, again, as a digital artist, that was it. Like there was no way to sort of like it wasn't viewed as art. There was no way to collect it. Right. And that's where the NFTE came in. So the way I came to it was just in October of last year, people kept hit me up because, again, I'm a very popular designer.


You kind of look at this NFTE thing. You've got to look at the center of T thing. And when I did, it was immediately just like, oh, my God, this is like insane. Like people are paying one. I didn't even think you could sell this stuff. And two people are paying like insane amounts for it that it was just like. And so you decided to start doing it like this was a way to sell your work as an.


I mean, I said to someone, do you own the Mona Lisa? They were like, no. And I said, Well, you can see it all the time and you can actually physically see it. You see pictures of it. You can put it on your computer screen. You don't own it, but someone does and they're getting value from it. So it's whatever people want to put the value of something in very simply.


So a non-functional token is really just at its core a proof of ownership. It's just proving you own something and it can be attached to anything. It sort of points to a digital file and says, this is the thing. You own copyright in some way. Well, it's not copyright. I think it's more somewhat similar to like a master recording of something that it's sort of like, OK, a bunch of people have the top three and everybody can listen to it.


Everybody's hearing the exact same thing. But one person owns the master recording of it and that person can prove, OK, I own it. And if you have a copy of the EP three, you don't think you own it. You're not going to convince anybody you own it just because you have access to. Right. And that's the thing that I think is is hard for people to wrap their head around. It's it's a bit of a paradigm shift because we're used to just having all these sort of digital copies.


And the only way that you can sort of prove or sort of exert ownership on the Internet is by restricting access, blocking through a paywall, blocking through this or that. But that's not what this is. It's really just about proving ownership. And just like you said with the Mona Lisa, the more something is widely shared, the more popular it becomes, the more valuable it will become. When you go to the loo and take a picture of the Mona Lisa and share it on the Internet, it's not like, whoa, wow, I just devalued the Mona Lisa because I shared this picture of it.


Of course not. Like, that's just ridiculous. So this idea that sort of the only way something has value if you're able to restrict access to it, I think is just like completely like the opposite. Because you look at a painting, somebody buys a painting, they go lock it away in their house. You never see that again. So I think that's where this is a that's a huge, huge advantage of this digital art over traditional art.


And I think right now you're seeing it with digital art. You're seeing it with NBA top shot, with collectibles. You're seeing with a few other things. But I really feel like it's such a blank slate technology that you are going to see this with everything. You go buy a car, they give you an A. It's tied to the car. It's tied to some VIN number on the car, whatever. You buy a house. OK, here's the concept for the house.


It's going to be for like everything because again, it's just proving ownership. And so make it anything that you want to prove ownership of and tie the physical to the digital. I believe you will use this thing a diploma. OK, here's your diploma. Here's NFTE. Proves you have the diploma and it's tied to you and it's one to one and nobody can copy it. And it's just a very simple way to do this. And obviously, we need a system set up to do this.


But I think it is such a at its core, the technology is such a blank slate. I really think it's like a Web page. Well, what can a Web page be? A Web page can be anything. That's right.


When the Internet started, for those who weren't around, I don't know how old you are. Thirty nine. Well, then I'm much older than you when it started. A lot of people like, what is the Internet? And I said everything like, who knows, we're still figuring it out. Yeah, but it also is linked very closely to the cryptocurrency. The idea around cryptocurrency.


It is right now, but it's not really it is block chain is different than cryptocurrency, which I think it is very different. And I think it's going to decouple from that because again, it's block chain is the technology to prove this. But block chain in itself actually doesn't have anything to do with cryptocurrency like this. This, I believe, will have nothing to do with currency, like when it's fully realized it's just literally a concept for how do you prove ownership of something.


That's all right.


So tell me exactly what happens when you decide to sell some pieces. You you as people, the artist decide to sell, you reach out to a platform like Nifty Gateway. There's a lot of there's it's super, super rare. Reminds me of sneakers. I have teenagers, so I think ah thing in my head. But explain what you do, explain exactly the process.


So basically there's websites where you can sort of give them your artwork and they'll meant it and they basically sort of just put it on the block chain. And when you sort of make these into an NFTE, you tokenized it. It's called tokenized dementing. And you basically just sort of added to the blockade. Everybody can see that token. It's sort of part of the the, you know, kind of like putting it on the Internet. And so, you know, again, if can do it or there's also sites where you could go on referable and immediately take a picture, a sound or a movie, whatever, and immediately start to do that.


And so there's anybody can do this. Just making an NFTE does not give it any value, just like just making a website does not give it any value. Right. Sort of like it has value if people want it or it has some utility.


The difference between my website and Google, for example. Right.


It's one of these things where, yeah, it's got to like again, the NFTE part of it doesn't just inherently give. Value, and that's where I think there is a lot of speculation right now that, again, like the very early Internet, people are super jacked on this and they're really, you know, it's getting a bit wacky with some stuff. And so that's where I think people need to be careful and sort of recognize.


Yeah, just like buying domain names, if you remember, like, whether it was food, dotcom or hello, dotcom or and there was a bunch of crap.


There was a big bubble and the bubble burst. And I honestly think that will happen with this. But when the bubble burst on the Internet, it didn't wipe out the Internet. It just wiped out the crap. It just wiped out the stuff where it was like, OK, pets' dot com. Yeah, that was probably never a good idea. Like, OK, yeah, I guess we will though.


Hello Chewey. It was a good idea. Was a bad execution of a good idea. It's one of these things though. I think it's going to be the same thing. There's timing, there's going to be stuff where it's just sort of like, you know, it just we got a little carried away here, we got a little crazy. And we assign some maybe exorbitant values to some of this stuff. And so I think the technology, though, is simple and strong enough that it's going to outlast that bubble and sort of still be something that is very useful beyond that.


OK, so just a few months ago, your highest selling piece, Crossroads, was sold for a little over sixty six thousand dollars.


Speaking of that, this video that changed based on the results of the presidential election. Now, one of your works is worth over a thousand times that. Sixty nine million again, this was bought and sold with the cryptocurrency ether, the other platform theorem. So how do you explain the price of your work skyrocketing then? Is it just the excitement around it?


I would say it's just the excitement around it, to be quite honest. I think the prices of everything is definitely like going up the Crossroads piece. I think, you know, obviously dealt with the election and it was a piece that I made specifically for that. I think the Christi's piece, I mean it to me is just a way more important piece. It's sort of taking the first five thousand days, the first thirteen years of this project. Right.


And sort of putting into one like, OK, here's a JPEG that literally has thirteen years of work in it. And so that's I think it does deserve to be worth more than the other piece. Sixty nine million. I'm not sure about that.


OK, so walk me through how this sixty nine million dollar auction at Christie's came to be. How did your conversation with them start? They're obviously looking at this space, the digital art arena, and been very slow to it actually. So tell us how that happened.


Yeah, so that was actually sort of maker's place, which is similar to the Nifty Gateway or any of these other platforms. It's basically just a marketplace where you can buy and sell these things. A digital gallery. A digital gallery. Yep. And it's sort of artists go to this gallery and sort of upload their work. They sell it and it's sort of like eBay or anything like that. So they go to Christie's. So they went to Christie's and sort of said, I think you should do this.


And Christie said, OK, who should we do it with? Earlier in December, I had had like a three point five dollars million drop, which at the time, like, shattered all of the records and oh my God, three point five million. That was, you know, obviously seemed very, very crazy in December. So they reached out to me. It was like instantly like, of course, yes, I would love to do this.


And so first, I wanted to auction the five thousandth day the last day, because I thought, well, that's the most sort of like valuable thing. But if you look at that picture, it's quite gross and weird. What is the five thousand day? So it's got like a little kid, like drawing a picture and he's actually drawing the first day. And behind him is like a big, like fab Buzz Lightyear with like milk leaking out of his nipples and like a giant like Michael Jackson baby womb thing.


And like just a bunch of, like, themes and stuff that I've touched on over the last couple of years.


You had a bad meal the night before, but like if you don't know of all that stuff, it's basically a bunch of inside jokes.


It makes no sense to you. You'll just be like, OK, this is a weird picture. I don't know what the hell this is like. You're not going to get it at all. Yeah. What is wrong with artists these days? You're not and you're not going to understand the scope of the project, the five hours a day. OK, I don't know what that means. Five thousand. What, like you're not going to understand. Right?


And so I was always like, OK, if they say no to that, I'm going to do all five thousand. So luckily that's what we did and I think was a way, way better choice.


How did you feel working with them? These are people used to selling, you know, Picasso's or whatever it was. It was it like dealing with a I'm trying to think of me dealing with a newspaper publisher back in the day when I kept saying blog to them. So that's the thing.


I don't know anything about their world and they don't know anything about my world. So it was definitely there was some sort of coming together there, but they were super great to work with, to be quite honest. Like they were very like they got it. And at first I didn't really have sort of a because again, I don't know the traditional art world. I didn't realize how much sort of like blowback there was going to be. Yeah, I thought people would just be like, oh, this is cool.


Yeah. This is like a new thing like this or that. And prior to the launch, it was just like I talked to Noah Davis, the specialists at Christie's. And he was like, no, no, no, this is going to like people are going to be really pissed, people are going to be super, super pissed because this is like messing up everything. They're like, yeah, it's not a thing.


It's not a thing. What did you think it was going to sell for?


I didn't know people were thrilled because people kept throwing out bigger and bigger numbers. Like when this first started waitress's before I was like, oh man, I think this could go for a million dollars because at the beginning of twenty twenty one it was no NFTE had sold for a million dollars. It's like, oh no one's going to suffer a million dollars, like it's going to be the first one. It sells for a million dollars. Oh my God.


Like that's crazy. And then as time went on over the course of just this, it kept like and then people were like, oh, you know, it's going to be like one to three and then somebody throw five. And it was like, oh, my God, five. What are you talking about? A few days into the auction, you laughed when your interview host floated fifty million dollars. You laughed. Yeah, I definitely sort of like laughed at 50 because it's like, what are you talking about?


Like, this is just like, yeah, we've gotten a bit a bit crazy with it. I think it's it's. What was your reaction of the final figure, the sixty nine million.


Well, you can see it because there was literally two film crews shooting me and I'm on a clubhouse with like a thousand people. Yeah. And so I'm like literally like sitting there and all my family. And that is around and we're watching it on the TV. And people started saying there was there was a big jump from twenty five to fifty and our screen didn't refresh. And so I thought they were kidding. And then when it refreshed a fifty it was like oh my God.


Like it just like got up and walked away immediately. It was just like insane.


The buyer who is Medical Von Mayakoba and. Yep. So he paid for it in etherial. He bought it in Ethereum. And so this is the first time that Christi's has accepted a theory. And I can assure you it will not be the last time because within about thirty six hours of the close of the auction, I was fully paid, the artwork was fully delivered.


You keeping all your crypto from your sale or did you cash to common dollars?


Yeah, it's mostly in cash right now. Already. I already moved most of it. So you're not speculating in Bitcoin too, at the same time or in theory?


I'm more bullish on crypto, to be honest. Again, I was never there. I'm not some frickin bitcoin, bro. I'm I'm more bullish, though. I will say if crypto can survive the pandemic and come out stronger, it's probably going to be around for a second, probably not going anywhere.


When you talk about this idea of a bubble, do you think the pandemic is accelerated, that because everyone's on. I know everything's been accelerated, hasn't it? Absolutely.


I think this is something that was inevitable. And I think this sort of just using this technology to prove ownership is inevitable. But I absolutely think the pandemic accelerated it. That being said, though, I don't think once the pandemic is done and all the restrictions are lifted that this is going to go away. I actually think there's a ton of use cases for this. Yeah. That we've been now hampered by the pandemic and haven't been able to sort of like prove out.


I think you could do a bunch of things with concert tickets, with music and sort of access with that. I think that that NFTE could be super useful for which the Kings of Leon have done, Kings of Leon have done. But again, they can't have shows yet. And so people can't sort of like sell NFTE and attach it to like, oh, if you buy this NFTE, you're going to be in the front row the show two weeks from now, like we haven't had been able to, like, really do that.


And so I think there's a ton of use cases around sort of gathering and events and stuff like that that you're going to see sort of be able to play out so much.


We'll be back in a minute, if you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favourite podcast app, you'll be able to catch up on Hsueh episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Elon Musk and you'll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Mike Winkelmann after the break. When you look at a laptop, you see a laptop, but a cyber criminal, they look at it and billions of other devices and they see a point of entry with so many ways in and advanced techniques to go unseen.


Cyber criminals have the upper hand. You need a better way to detect and respond to cyber attacks and protect your business. Extra help helps the world's leading organizations stop reaches up to 84 percent faster. Regain the upper hand. Learn more about extra hop. That's extra HP at extra hop dotcom slash NYT. I'm Jenna Wortham, I'm Wesley Morris, we are two culture writers at The New York Times and we host a podcast called Still Processing. And every week we talk about the way popular culture connects to life.


And right now we're talking about the N-word, a word that my most rebellious, youthful self loved using, but recently just started to feel Courtauld coming out of my mouth. I've never used it. I still can't believe that. I mean, it's been used on me, but I have never used it. We're going deep into why in this episode and into our cultural relationship with this word, too. It's an awful word. And yet it's still with us after all this time.


And how we use it is still debated even in our friendship. So we talk about that, too. You can listen to still processing wherever you get your podcasts and you can listen to this episode right now.


Let's talk about the finances, so you've seen the price surge not just at Christie's, but your other art has searched the works across your first NFTE drop, have been resold for a lot more money, crossroad flip for six point six million, which makes it the second highest valued crypto art sale you can share in that upside when it starts to resell. Or is that that it's out of your hands? No. So built into the smart contract, you can sort of build whatever you want.


You can build any rule. And so sort of the standard rate now is 10 percent that it's sort of artists get 10 percent royalty on these things. To be honest, there's sort of there's ways to break that. The royalties don't work across all the platforms. So I take that piece of it as a little bit of an asterisk because there are certain ways around it that I don't think they're ever going to get around it. What I want to get to is that you get some of the money and a lot of people have been talking to saying the artists say a very expensive painting sells for one hundred and ten million dollars like happened a few years ago.


The families of these artists don't get collect a piece. They get nothing. They get nothing. They get absolutely nothing. The original sale, you get 90 percent. Original sale, you get 90 percent. The secondary sale, you get 10 percent. And so when that the piece initially sold for sixty six thousand. So I got 90 percent of that. Then it resold for six point six million. And so I got six hundred thousand. So I literally got ten times more because it resold for so much than on the initial sale.


So I think I would like to see, even though technically that might not be feasible, to sort of enforce in all scenarios, I would love to see that become a just a norm, just like a standard practice. So the creator constantly is benefiting creator constantly is able to benefit from it, because, again, these are you know, there's a term starving artist for a reason.


So speaking of buyers, let's discuss your collection that went for three point five million. That was your second NFTE drop and it happened in December. And the buyer was someone who goes by medical then. Yeah, he owns Metaverse, which is a cryptocurrency effort.


Well, it's a fund. He kind of has like sort of like a big collection of Mufti's. What he did is quite interesting, actually, and it's a whole other, like, huge rabbit hole. So when I did that drop, there was twenty one different sort of like one of one single edition pieces. And so he got 20 of them. This other Timkin got the last one, the final one, because he sort of smashed on a big number, kind of on top of them.


But what he did with my 20 is he's bought all 20 for a very specific reason. And he took those and he built sort of museums for them in some virtual lands because there's virtual land similar to like Second Life, where people can buy NFTE land that cost tens of thousands of dollars and build stuff on it.


Right. And just see second life for people are virtual universes. Yeah.


It's kind of like a video game, but it's like sort of kind of you can do anything or do like weird stuff in or whatever. Minecraft. Yeah. Kind of like Minecraft. So there's a bunch of virtual worlds like that. So he built museums for this artwork in those things, and then he bundled all this together, rebundled the museums, the land that the museums are on and 20 of my works. And then he locked them in a smart contract and fractionalized.


It spit out 10 million shares and then he sold those shares. And at first I was quite against it, to be quite honest. It was sort of like because I didn't like it, it was just like, what are you doing? Like, I didn't this is not how I intended this, to be quite honest. I entered it a bunch of collectors to have these, and I thought we were going to jump on a zoom con, shoot the shit, have beer, open the physical's and blah, blah, blah.


And it's like, well, you're not doing any of that. And then it was kind of like, OK, well, he's going to do it. And so it's like, you know, it would be good if it was successful. It's like I would like to see his his artwork go up in value. That's good for me. It's good for him, whatever. So he did that and sort of and he started it at thirty six cents.


These are B twenty token B twenty tokens. And so this is, it's more like a currency that you can just buy and it's sort of backed by these things. Again, they're locked into the smart contract. Even he can't get them off the art itself. The art itself in these movies are in the smart contract. Right. And so that B twenty started at thirty six cents and it is now at twelve bucks right now. But it was at, at it went up and down.


Yeah, it's been up and down but at one point it was at like twenty five bucks or something like that. So that's two hundred and fifty million dollars. And do you own a piece of this. So he gave me two percent, two percent. And there's probably at least a decent chance that he will do it with this piece that he just paid seventy million dollars for.


So what do you think of creation of value like that? I honestly think and again, at first I was kind of like I did not get it. And it was like, this seems so complicated. And it's like, OK, I'm just trying to, like, introduce these NAFTA to people. Now, here, let's take another step further and further abstraction. And like now it's even further away from the actual artwork and very much into a financial instrument that's like, yes, has this much art.


It's a bit further. We're getting further from the art here, like, so I'm kind of like, OK, well, you can sell that. And if you can sell it to your crypto people like you, go for that. But I'm not going to go to.


So you did not know in advance of these plans to do this before he bought the thing?


Absolutely not. I didn't even know that was possible because, again, I'm not like somebody who's been into crypto forever. Like, I just came to this space in October trying to wrap my head around this. And what that is, is actually closer to call, like defined centralized finance. Yes. Which is a whole other sort of bizarre thing. It's a thing. It's a thing you're going to have to use or complicated like.


So do you think there was any conflict of interest here that you own something that then creates more value and goes on?


I personally don't, because it's sort of like one I didn't can't control. Who bought the final auction piece? It's sort of like I didn't, like, sell it to him. It was sort of like he just wanted it and he could have not won it. And so and it's sort of like I don't personally see how like him giving me two percent of this thing, like I have not really honestly done anything to sort of promote that thing. Like, you know, it's kind of honestly a lot of out of my hands.


But I do think people being like this Ponzi scheme or some weird thing, it's kind of like a kiss. You just don't understand this. It's just fractional rising art. Like it's I don't thinking there's some weird ulterior motives here.


And this it happens to be art that's easier to fractionalized. It just happens to be art that's very easy to recognize.


Do you know his identity, medicaments, identity? I don't know exactly who he is. I talk to a man on sort of Skype a few times. I don't honestly know that much about him at all. When Guess is big nest syndrome and that's what I think his name is, I don't I don't know. It's like background or anything like that. But you spoken to him? I've spoken, yeah, I spoke to him and he seems like a nice guy.


But again, I, I've spoken to him a few times on him.


So one of the things is huge sale was a proof of concept for Ethereum, for NFTE. He made his purchase with Ethereum first time Christie's has taken a payment.


So are you worried about possibly being the second level of a pyramid scheme?


You know, it could be. It's definitely something I don't think it's a pyramid scheme, because I think it's really just sort of buying into ownership of artwork. And it's sort of that's all it is. It's kind of like if you think that artwork is going to be more valuable in the long term and buy it if you don't, don't buy it. Right, that's it. Yeah, it's definitely it is extremely speculative. And the entire NAFT market is extremely speculative right now.


Like this is for people who are looking to take some risks because a lot of this stuff will absolutely go to zero. If you just look at art, historically blue chip stuff like does pretty well over time, but like most of it goes to zero, like that's just how it is. And I believe NASD will be no different than I believe. It's absolutely already in a irrational exuberance bubble that is is were there were there OK, one of the things you said was this isn't a meme asset, but do you agree that anti-establishment values are driving up the value of this art?


A lot of people have told me it's just like GameStop, the young people, millennials pushing into this next world.


Yeah, I think there is going to be some of that, to be quite honest. The storming of the gates. I think there is to be quite honest, I think you look at and that's where I look at NFTE as an investment opportunity broadly that I think might not be going away, because I think you look at we've gotten used to over the last hundred years sort of equities being the sort of predominant asset class that people you grow up, you get a little extra money, then you choose a corporation to give that money to.


Well, kids don't like corporations. Kids hate corporations. And so this idea that they're just automatically going to keep doing that if there's alternatives available, I don't know that I would assume that they're just going to keep doing that. And whether or not it's a store of value in an alternate asset class that I think could appeal to them a lot more because there are less rules around it. You do have more ownership of it. And that's something that I think people are really yearning for online is having some sense of ownership over their sort of digital self.


You look at Google, Facebook, you don't own that data. You give them that data, then they own it and they do whatever the hell they want with it.


But then, you know, let me push back. Do you think it's fair when the entire auction was really just a bidding war between 30 rich millennials, essentially, and the same thing with GameStop, a lot of people made the money are rich people who got into it and then sort of said keep pushing to the average citizen and then got out the minute they needed to? Oh, sure.


I think it's one of these things. Where do I think muftis are going to just magically democratize and like, you know, I don't think that. I think it's like the Internet did the Internet just magically democratized everything? It democratized some things. But it like if you had a bunch of money still, you probably still have a bunch of money. Like it didn't just level the playing field for everybody. And that's what entities are going to be. Again, they're a blank slate.


Rich people will. Be able to use them to make more money, and it will be hard for everybody else to sort of be able to overcome that. So it's a technology I don't do not view this technology as some just magic utopia making thing that just up here it is that everybody gets to collateralize everything they are.


Yeah, this is going to be again, it's it's a tool that is such a blank slate. Both sides will get it. And when everybody gets this advantage, then probably nothing will change in terms of the like, power dynamics.


So there will be a Google of this. There will be a Google of this. Well, eventually, quite honestly, I believe Instagram will just input this. It will just become part of Instagram. That is where I see it ending, meaning explain that it will be like share comment by end users there by buttons right there. You buy that post and you can see that's the person who owns that post and you'll be able to say, OK, I want ten people doing this poster.


I want one person to own this post and you'll be able to have an auction on the post. You'll be able to do this or that. It'll just be built right.


And Instagram and then they'll just own it. I want to talk about your art itself, because one of the things you talked about is you've got a lot of criticism of the art itself and art reflects culture. What do you think the culture of your art reflects?


The thing I'm trying to reflect is that there are some very weird things happening with technology, some very unintended consequences, and I believe that is only going to accelerate. I think Donald Trump was a very weird unintended consequence of technology that we did not see. Right. We thought, oh, we'll connect everybody. This will be great. Everybody can share whatever information they have. And then it was like, oh, and we didn't see that. Right.


You had Donald Trump as a dominatrix. You had a joint Clinton Trump robot lactating.


He's had a lot of adventures. He's had a lot of adventures with me. We've been through some stuff.


Why this? This is what you're depicting, the sort of deleterious effects of technology?


I think it's something that's going to keep happening. I think technology is progressing faster. And I honestly think me selling this thing for sixty nine million dollars is actually kind of a perfect example of that. Right, that this is like weird things are going to keep happening and they're going to happen more and more because technology, we're like it just keeps going faster and faster and faster. And there's going to be more weird unintended consequences because we can't keep up with these things.


And then you have technologies coming together in weird ways that it's like, oh, crap, OK, when you combine that with this now you can 3D printed gun. Oh crap. When you like this or that, like this explodes. Oh crap. When people can organize on this Reddit channels, they can smash the price of a game stocks. There's going to be more and more I think weird things that we didn't see coming. So to me it's sort of interesting to take those things in like OK, well what if these weird things we played them out.


Fifty years. Eighty years, then what's going to happen? What does that look like in. It's honestly always done with like a sense of humor and just like very tongue in cheek. Sure.


Talk to me about this, art critics, because one of the in the Times actually there's a quite an interesting piece. Oh yeah. Yeah. One called your digital collage. What does the Fox say of art sales? He also wrote, What distinguishes people's digital imagery from other nonestablishment art and put it in quotes is the violent erasure of human values inherent in the pictures and how happy his crypto fans are to see them go. He was talking about your humans being dessicated and other things.


I'm just curious, your living artist. So what was your reaction to me? It's sort of like everybody has their own opinion. I totally realized this is not for everybody. Like I'm not trying to make art that every single person likes, and I totally get that it's going to like push some people's buttons. And a lot of the stuff you could definitely take is being very offensive.


But they've done that with art forever, right?


Yeah, I think it's one of these things that I totally get that. So if people don't like it, that's OK. It's not for everybody. I suspect it's the price combined with the art.


And I'm sure that's a lot. I think it's very when something sells for a huge amount, like, you know, and I've heard that read this now with Coors and Jeff Koons of people and not not everybody, super fans of them either. So I think any time there's a bunch of money, there's there's going to be people like, I want my taking this guy down. I wouldn't mind taking him down a bit, which is fine. That's fine.


All right. So the big critique of you and other NFTE artists, along with cryptocurrency, is the environmental footprint of your art. Mining, cryptocurrency and block chain transactions consume tremendous amount of energy when you yourself use a lot of energy in rendering these one hundred percent. Yes. And that's one thing where it's like, wait a second, guys, what do you think this Pixar movie just magically came out of nowhere?


You just hit random and it is everything you do using Netflix, using email, all of these things, I think in this case, because there's a lot of money involved. Now, suddenly we're very concerned about, you know, ecological footprint, but rightfully so. It is something that needs to be fixed. I believe it will be fixed quite, quite quickly. In the meantime, I'm offsetting by like a factor of. It's not perfect, it's definitely not mitigation, it's mitigation, but I think this problem, I think, will get fixed quickly because again, there's nobody like nobody wins.


There's no entrenched player here who benefits from this versus like the oil and gas like they don't want. It's kind of like a low scoring monster thing here. There's a lot of push back with here. All the tech companies like they win if this gets easier and simpler to compute.


So do you feel that people that artists yourselves I mean, I know a lot of you weren't aware of them necessarily, are artists banding together because it's not a good look? One hundred percent. Yes, there's actually a drop that I'm a part of with the Open Earth Foundation that is going to raise a bunch of awareness. I think, one, I don't think people understand how much the offsets like how they're very affordable and that in the meantime, while we sort of work to fix this, that's a viable alternative.


That's quite affordable. But I think in general, artists, just compared to the rest of I don't want to throw too much to get too much hate mail here, sort of rest of the tech bro sort of crypto broader thing, because, again, this is a crypto in general. This is not just an AFTRS. This is all crypto has shares. This exact thing.


This is the mining of crypto is energy use. The usage is high. Yes. But I think artists are definitely the people who are going to, you know, sort of, I think, lead the charge in trying to like, make this better just because they are people who are more socially minded.


And I think, you know, OK, but is it a world just for the bank and the Beatles? Do you think any digital artists can make a living with NFTE one day?


Absolutely not. No. It will still be very hard. It's going to be again, it's a blank. It's just a new type of canvas. It just picture we had cloth canvases and we have now we have digital canvases. And so it will still be very, very hard to make a living as a digital like artist like this. Nothing has changed in terms of that.


It will be just as hard as it was before and things will have value and other things. Things will have value and a bunch of things will not. So this, again, it's that's where people really need to get that. Just because something becomes an NFTE does not magically give it more value.


Do you have any more plans to drops or auctions in the near future? Yeah. So right now I'm working on the spring collection and sort of moving forward. I'm going to do like a spring and fall collection as sort of the big things. But I'm really focused on sort of reinvesting this money and making like bigger and better art. Honestly, the money piece of this does not sort of bother me because I look at myself as like a tech company almost, that it's sort of like I'm using technology and art to make this.


And so when somebody pays a huge amount of money, I look at that as an investment and I look at it as like, OK, you're investing in me, you're investing in my art. And I'm not want to get you a return on that. And so I know I made the art. I made the art because I love making art. And I started making this stuff thirteen years ago, long before any of this crap. And if this stuff all went away tomorrow, I would keep doing it because that's what I love to do and that's what I'm going to keep doing, period.


Is it just you making it now? It's just you you don't have you're not like like. No, no.


I've hired people now and like, we're really started pushing in the physical space because I really want to make like, these physical's these objects like super, super cool. I want to make something that feels like the Louis Vuitton of like electronic art. So you've hired people. How many people work for you now? I've got four or five. Maybe they're engineers and stuff that are like, you know, things that can help build these physical things because again, there's so much room to, like, make screens that are not just squares like I want it to make pieces that feel very digital, but they're physical pieces that are like, whoa, that's I've never seen something like that before.


And it's one of these things where it's sort of like I can make something that is upgradable because the physical piece will die. It's a screen. It's going to die. It's going to go out. But if you hold the movie, then I can give you a new one. And so you can almost upgrade your art. It can be something where it's like, OK, right now in twenty twenty one you have the twenty, twenty one physical version of this NAFT, but down the line you can upgraded in three years to the like twenty, twenty five version of this NFTE.


That's an even cooler, sweeter screen. And again this is relatively cheap compared to the artwork, the screens and stuff like that. And so the art keeps changing. Yes. The art, the physical instantiation of the art, the artwork itself with the Mona Lisa look like if you could keep doing that, I don't know.


And that's what's super cool because and that's where it's to me, it's super interesting is you buy this digital artwork and just like this guy bought, it's a gold bar. Nothing. It's just a jpeg. It's like, OK, he bought a jpeg. But that jpeg, again, we're going to like projected on the side of a building at Art Basel. It can be you know, we can make an app so you can zoom in and it's super close.


It can take a bunch of different form factors instead of one. A painting is a painting. It will always stay just that one thing, it will slowly decay, and that's all it ever is. And so there's a bunch of different advantages to digital artwork over traditional artwork that I think you're going to see sort of play out here that that to me, makes it super exciting and and why I really think this is the next chapter of art. So this is just limited to creativity.


We've just scratched the surface of this. So when I hear the traditional art world kind of like shitting on this or being scared of it, it's a guess you can use it to. This is just my thing, right? Everybody can use this, like, chill out. So you are a tech company. You look like Bill Gates.


You do know that I've got that quite a shockingly large amount. Yes. Thank you for being the 80th person who's done this.


And that's very interesting that the articles have been like I'm Steve Kornacki, Bill Gates and Mr. Rogers, you know, and then also I'm you know, I'm in The New York Times and this pervert, you know, guy amoral artists who just cares about crypto, blah, blah, blah, and burning down rainforest.


They're freaking out of the lactating. Too much lactating.


There's that right. There's me, Bill Gates and Steve Kolonaki, lactating frickin Dylan SEALs with his frickin RFD. That's me in a nutshell. There it is. All right, Mike, thank you so much.


Thank you so much. All right. Bye bye.


Suerte is a production of New York Times opinion, it's produced by name Raza Blakeney, Qik Hebeler, Bonnie Matchpoint, Daphne Chen and Vishakha Darba, edited by Nyima Rozz and Paula Schoeman with original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Eric Gomes and fact checking by Kate Sinclair and Michelle Harris.


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