Beeple tries his hand at wall art

A cavalry of crypto enthusiasts entered Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood Thursday night, waiting outside Jack Hanley Gallery for a chan...


A cavalry of crypto enthusiasts entered Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood Thursday night, waiting outside Jack Hanley Gallery for a chance to meet their online art messiah in the flesh. In the mix were celebrities like Jimmy Fallon. It was a rock star welcome for Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, who put the finishing touches to his images of decapitated tech executives and haywire science experiments.

Last year, 40-year-old Winkelmann introduced the world to NFTs (or non-fungible tokens), starting with the $69 million sale of his “Every day – The first 5000 daysat a Christie’s auction, which placed the cryptocurrency on a intensive course with culture. Now he is ask for approval of the artistic establishment with his first gallery exhibition, titled “Uncertain future“, which intends to convince reviews that his work has more substance than what they see on screen.

“I’m in a bit of a weird position,” Winkelmann told the gallery that night. “I am an outsider in the world of traditional art. I didn’t really feel like that until recently because I’ve been doing this work in the digital art community for a very long time.

Winkelmann has therefore produced an exhibition on walls rather than screens, with 13 paintings and prints that imagine an apocalyptic future where companies like Amazon and Facebook are reduced to ruins, their founders vessels of vanity and greed. Prices range from $75,000 to $300,000. Not that any of the hundreds in attendance were lucky enough to buy a Beeple on Thursday night; the artwork was all in storage, purchased, by the time the doors opened.

Still, Winkelmann remains bullish on NFTs, tying each physical job to a blockchain-based collectible for authentication. He said that much of his fortune from the Metaverse went back into his art.

Winkelmann recently moved into a new 50,000 square foot industrial studio space in Charleston, SC. His younger brother, Scott Winkelmann, quit his job at the Boeing airline to oversee the 16 full-time employees responsible for turning the artist’s dreams into realities. (The staff includes several Boeing aerospace engineers.) Other family members have joined the team, including the sons’ mother, who has an office in the studio complex.

Several advisors from the crypto and cultural worlds also joined the Beeple team, including Jehan Chu, a blockchain venture capitalist and NFT collector who attended the opening.

“Right now, there are two art worlds,” Chu said, adding that he hopes more museums and galleries will mellow out digital art. “The mainstream art world is still learning the core values ​​of the NFT space.”

Development of the exhibit began nine months ago with Winkelmann calling on gallerist Jack Hanley. “At first, I was wary of all the hype,” the dealer said. “But Mike has a really lucid critique of big tech. He is also very funny.

Hanley has spent the past 35 years championing foreign artists like Raymond Pettibon and Peter Saul, who slowly gained institutional acceptance after being fired for lack of formal art education. Winkelmann could be the next generation, the dealer said, although not everyone at the gallery agrees; Hanley has confirmed that some artists he represents quit in protest at the Beeple exhibit, as Artnet News reported.

Fans say Winkelmann’s ability to shock the establishment is part of his appeal.

“The essence of Beeple is sort of between a satirist and a troll,” said Simon Glenn, 26, a web developer who admired a impression which imagines a Netflix future reduced to broken televisions and rusting freight containers. “It’s about asking what the company would be like without its employees.”

Towards the back of the gallery, the artist Julia Sinelnikova, 32, admired a large painting depicting the disfigured head of Jeff Bezos quarantined in “excessive testosterone discharge”. She appreciated that Winkelmann was willing to criticize the leaders of an industry that supported her work.

“I had been looking at Beeple’s work for a long time as entertainment,” Sinelnikova said, squinting at the artist’s phallus-filled portrait of the Amazon founder. “But the works here in the gallery are much more beautiful and detailed than I expected.”

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