It’s tough to exist on the internet lately without seeing endless headlines about Beeple. For the uninitiated, the artist (also known as Mike Winkelmann) posted one original work online every day starting on May 1, 2007. Fast forward more than 13 years, and he has amassed an extensive archive of digital imagery that he recently brought together to create Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, a monumental digital collage of these daily images. It wouldn’t normally cause much of a stir, but Beeple offered the purely digital work as a non-fungible token through the auction house Christie’s, which accepted cryptocurrency as payment for the first time. Thanks to nonstop internet hype and the recent resurgence of crypto, Beeple’s “magnum opus” fetched a staggering $69.3 million at auction.
This saga bodes well for digital artists who have long felt excluded from the mainstream art world. But did anyone actually look at Beeple’s work? Ben Davis of Artnet News took an entire day to sift through his archive, and what he found likely won’t age gracefully. Recent work dabbles in sci fi–inflected political satire—one image, called “Feeding Time,” depicts a robotic Hillary Clinton feeding a baby Trump via a tube from her crotch. Before the 2016 election, Beeple posted abstract imagery that looks more like Photoshop experiments than anything else. Unfortunately, they come with titles like “if i was one of them fancy-dancy elite art homos i’d call this light study v1.”
That’s just scratching the surface. We encourage you to read Davis’s piece in full, where he chronicles Beeple’s creative trajectory and highlights the most problematic images from Everydays. He sums up the analysis better than we ever could: “We’ve passed through a racial uprising and a reckoning with sexism, and the cultural project of the moment is… innovating new ways to worship decade-old, BroBible-level brain farts?” he says, noting that Beeple’s efforts are now valued at roughly $14,000 per day. “During a time of immiseration, investors are competing to throw tens of millions of dollars… at this?”
All that being said, Beeple may be in on the joke. On his website, he writes: “By posting the results [of Everydays] online, I’m ‘less’ likely to throw down a big pile of ass-shit, even though most of the time I still do because I suck ass.” Huh.