Here is the description not of a legal, but a "life" case of how one artist attracted general public’s attention to NFT topic, started extensive conversations around it and essentially paved the way for many digital artists using this tool.
European Trademark Attorney, Partner at Starks IP and International Trade law firm (www.starks.be), Mediator
Beeple: the dawn of the insaNFTy
It all started in late 2020.
As a disclaimer, the NFT story has, of course, started much earlier. Seven years before the whole world heard of the insane price a .jpeg file can bring at Christie’s auction, on the 3rd of May, 2014, digital artist Kevin McCoy minted the first-known NFT, called 'Quantum' on the Namecoin blockchain. Back then, I bet it would have been difficult to find even a dozen people who had heard the acronym which seems to be on everyone’s lips nowadays. But let us go back to October 2020 and Mike Winkelmann, a digital artist who goes by the name Beeple.
October 2020. This was around that period that Beeple decided to jump on the highly accelerating NFT wagon, greatly contributing to it getting traction. However, important to stress is that back then, he had already been creating and posting digital artworks online for 13,5 years.
Every (!) single day for 13,5 (!) years, till the total reached 5.000 (Hence the subsequent name — “Everydays: The first 5000 days.”)
The first digital artwork of this series was published on his blog on the 1st of May, 2007.
One can disagree on the artistic quality of some (or all) of Beeple’s artworks, yet one certainly cannot deny him his mind-blowing tenacity.
In 2021, the artist had a significant number of followers on his Instagram account, while the community of digital artists was buzzing about this new “thing” — non-fungible tokens. Why not give it a shot? Which Beeple also did in October 2020, launching three artworks on Nifty Gateway for as little as a dollar apiece. Two months later, Beeple’s other drop “The Complete MF Collection” attracted a staggering bid of USD 777.777,77 from Tim Kang, who also owns several of Beeple’s “Politics is Bullshit” from his very first drop (Nr. 33/100 and 100/100).
Beeple got interested. Really interested.
Fast forward just three more months and an NFT of a mosaic of his 5000 artworks entitled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” was auctioned at Christie’s. The bidding started at a hundred dollars, yet on March 11th, 2021 the art market was “crashed” with a hammer price in excess of sixty-nine million dollars coming out of the wallet of an NFT fund Metapurse, led by Vignesh Sundaresan, a.k.a. MetaKovan.
The tenacity of Beeple paid out at a rate of about USD 14,000 per day, while Christie’s scored yet another digital “first” (three years after auctioning the first “AI-generated” artwork, “Portrait of Edmond Belamy” for USD 432,500).
The art market would never be the same.
And the art market was starting to talk. Intensively and extensively. Eventually, it was followed pretty much by everyone, yet back then, in 2021, it was primarily the art market talking.
Noah Davis, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Specialist in New York, said: “Beeple is looking at his whole body of work as it’s presented on Instagram as a kind of Duchampian readymade”. Ironically, Beeple himself, who never studied modern art, when asked, for example, about Abstract expressionism, admitted that he literally, has “no idea what the hell that is”. Would he be able to sustain the conversation about Marcel Duchamps? Well, by now, he probably already might.
Another Davis, this time the famous art critic Ben Davis of Artnet, six days after the auction at Christie’s, published his rather critical opinion-piece. And rightly so. It suffices to scroll through the zoomed-in artworks that make up the mosaic of “Everydays” to see disturbing images, very questionable attempts at political satire, and images crossing all possible boundaries of what’s acceptable in the modern world… Racism, misogyny, you name it, he has it.
Ben Davis in his concluding paragraph of that opinion poses a good question: “During a time of immiseration, investors are competing to throw tens of millions of dollars… at this?”
The buyer, however, strongly disagrees, stating: “This is the crown jewel, the most valuable piece of art for this generation. It is worth $1 billion.” One might indeed argue that “Everydays” is an artistic time capsule in a way and it is a unique piece. Sort of.
Here to stress, that the next time you read about the immutable, 100% certain provenance, blockchain record et caetera, just remember: “Beeple and sleepminting” and this is just one example of the NFT-related scams possible.
The bottom line is that NFTs have a lot of red flags and if one really appreciates a particular art or wants to support a particular artist or cause, art-NFTs are definitely to be looked into. If on the other hand, it is about making a high-ROI investment, then NFTs are probably not the way to go.
To conclude on Beeple:
Irrespective of the quality of his individual artworks making up “Everydays”, the significance of this mosaic lies in that it has certainly attracted general public’s attention, started extensive conversations around NFT topic, and essentially paved the way for many digital artists using this tool. Therefore, it is safe to say that Mike Winkelmann, a.k.a. Beeple, has started the whole insaNFTy, shaking up the (art) world as we knew it.
One small .jpeg for a man, one giant leap for a mankind.
P.S. And where is Beeple now, you might wonder? He is still making digital art. Like he had been before NFTs and by his own assertion, “if all this f***ng NFT stuff went away tomorrow” would be doing in the future. Aside from that, as he shared in an interview during the "NFT In America" event several months ago (on 10/04/2022), he is still processing the Christie’s sale, and meanwhile building a 50,000-square-foot building in Charleston (South Carolina), which will host his studio, a gallery, and an “experiential space with tons of projectors”.
A real-world project for a change.
 To put things in perspective here, Instagram would not appear for 3,5 more years — it was launched only in October 2010.
 For more detailed read on the topic, have a look at the article here - https://timdaub.github.io/2021/04/22/nft-sleepminting-beeple-provenance/ or just “google” “beeple sleepminting” to get more hits. In a few words, this is a way to successfully tamper with the NFT's provenance record. And actually, also blockchain as such is not tamper-proof… Have a read here for instance - https://medium.com/@artusvranken/actually-there-could-be-a-way-to-delete-data-on-a-blockchain-df62964bd927
 Another one is PHAYC and PAYC - a story of two NFT copycats who mirrored famous BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club). But do not stop here, there are much more NFT scams out there.
 Or wait, was it all about Christie’s?…