$69 million man of NFT art attended Purdue and befriended Indianapolis band

Indianapolis rock band Bybye issued its "Metamorphasize" album, featuring a Beeple illustration as cover art, in 2018.

You probably didn’t spend $69.3 million for a JPEG collage auctioned Thursday at Christie’s, but you can buy the physical representation of one of Beeple’s blockchain images for $18 thanks to an Indianapolis rock band.

Beeple, otherwise known as Purdue University alum Mike Winkelmann, licensed a digital illustration titled “YELLOW DOT” to the band Bybye for use as cover art for 2018 release “Metamorphasize.”

Winkelmann attended Purdue University with Bybye drummer Paul Symons two decades ago, and the former short-film collaborators remain friends. When Symons asked Winkelmann if any of his illustrations fit the “psychedelic spacey soul vibes” of Bybye’s music, the visual artist offered something he created on Aug. 22, 2016.

Dates are important to Winkelmann. By taking 5,000 daily illustrations and compiling the work into a 319 megabyte JPEG collage, Beeple shook up the art world this week. The collage, titled “Everydays – The First 5000 Days,” sold for $69.3 million at the conclusion of two weeks of bidding at Christies.

Bidding began at $100.

“It’s cool to see a friend’s work evolve over such a long period of time,” Symons said of Winkelmann’s process. “He believes if you do something every day you’ll become a master at it.”

Beyond the mastery of illustration, Winkelmann is a trailblazer in what Symons calls “immutable artifacts” of the online world.

The “Everydays” collage was minted as an NFT, or non-fungible token, in February. Stored on the blockchain, the image is documented as an original work owned by a single entity.

Video clips, gaming cards and the newly released Kings of Leon album “When You See Yourself” have made NFT headlines, but Beeple’s “Everydays” sale shatters digital records and ranks as the third highest auction price for a living artist in any medium.

“He’s really breaking ground,” said Symons, a professional video director.

“YELLOW DOT” is seen directly in the center of the “Everydays” collage. The specific image depicts a person who’s shaved their head and experienced plant growth in the place of hair.

Winkelmann studied computer science on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. Symons supplied music to accompany animations created by Winkelmann, and Winkelmann acted in one of Symons’ short films.

Symons said Winkelmann’s strong Wisconsin dialect accentuates his sense of humor.

“He is one of the most naturally funny people I know,” Symons said.

On the way to becoming a digital art sensation, Winkelmann designed concert video effects for high-profile acts such as Katy Perry and One Direction.

Which is one more reason why Bybye’s “Metamorphasize” album is a bargain.

We’ll do the math: The 5,000-piece “Everydays” collage sold for $69.3 million, or an average of $13,860 per illustration.

Pick up “Metamorphasize” at Bandcamp for $18 and you’ll have a Beeple from the collage and eight songs, too.

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