For more than a year now, NFTs -- blockchain-based digital certificates of ownership -- have been gaining traction in the art world, as well as in Hollywood. Now Beeple, often hailed as the king of non-fungible tokens, has teamed up with Madonna to create an NFT collection.
Provocation, transgression and scandal are three words that could be used to describe the career of Madonna, as well as that of Michael Winkelmann, aka Beeple. For more than 40 years, Madonna has been breaking all sorts of taboos about sex and religion, while Michael Winkelmann has, more recently, revolutionized the art market after the record sale of one of his NFT artworks at Christie's.
The two artists have now drawn on their shared taste for sensationalism to create "Mother of Creation," a collection of three unique edition NFTs on the theme of motherhood. Unsurprisingly, they echo the glitch aesthetic that has propelled Beeple to the ranks of the world's most expensive living artists, along with Jeff Koons and David Hockney.
Each of these three digital works features Madonna's avatar, completely naked, in the process of giving birth. However, rather than delivering a child, the "Like a Virgin" singer gives birth to a tree, butterflies or even robotic millipedes. It's a subversive collaboration that is very personal for the American singer. "When Mike and I decided to collaborate on this project a year ago, I was excited to have the opportunity to share my vision of the world as a mother and an artist with Mike's own unique point of view," she said. "I wanted to investigate the concept of creation, not only the way a child enters the world through a woman's vagina, but also the way an artist gives birth to creativity."
From Beeple to Bored Ape Yacht Club
This outrageous aesthetic is not to the taste of all art critics. Ben Davis, a journalist at Artnet News, says that the NFT collection is "probably much more a win for Beeple than for Madonna." He continues: "these works are upsetting because the animation of Madonna herself looks so dead. Or undead." And Beeple has made this his trademark. His creations use a kitsch style to poke fun at (or immortalize, depending on your point of view) celebrities such as Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Michael Jackson and Elon Musk.
While the art press is often critical of Beeple's work, collectors are much less so. In March 2021, one of them bought "Everydays: The First 5,000 Days" for $69.3 million. The final minutes of this record-breaking sale were followed by more than 22 million internet users on the Christie's website. A few weeks earlier, another work by Beeple, "Crossroads," sold for $6.6 million on the Nifty Gateway platform.
Madonna, on the other hand, is newer to the NFT game. She recently joined the elite club of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT owners, those jaded-looking monkey avatars are particularly popular in Hollywood. Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Marshmello and Jimmy Fallon all own one (or more) of these NFTs. Some, like the Brazilian soccer player Neymar, even use their Bored Ape as a profile picture on social networks to highlight their membership in this very select community. Madonna bought her virtual primate, designated as Bored Ape No. 4988, for 180 Ethereum on the OpenSea platform -- or more than $420,000, at the time of writing. Proof that, when it comes to NFTs, sometimes the sky's the limit.