“I can say non-fungible, but what is it?” began a co-host of CNBC’s Squawk on the Street, reeling after learning that Beeple’s digital artwork had just sold for USD 69.3 million. Christie’s shocked the auction industry by selling Beeple’s EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for such a massive sum last week. The story spread far beyond the industry and became mainstream news. As a result, the media grappled with the implications for art, investments, and a burgeoning digital world. On top of that, many news anchors also had to learn how to say “non-fungible token” live on-air.
It’s easy to disregard what that outside of the industry have to say about NFTs and digital art. Nonetheless, the rhetoric of mainstream media sources will determine how millions of people, including potential buyers, view the category. What has the media said about Beeple NFT as a whole? Auction Daily examines.
Art Internet “Almost Broke”
One of Squawk on the Street’s sister programs, Squawk Alley, came out more confidently in support of the emerging NFTs and Beeple’s work. According to CNBC reporter Robert Frank, NFTs have evolved from a speculative sideshow to a real asset class. Beeple is its main influencer. Beeple also appeared on the television program for a live interview following the auction results. Christie’s captured footage of Beeple watching the NFT auction conclude in the segment’s beginning. Jon Fortt, the show’s host, announced at the start of the segment that the segment almost broke the art internet yesterday.
A good deal of the interview was framed as a feel-good story with a few questions about the future of NFTs. As part of the interview, host Jon Fortt pitched NFTs as an “alternative asset class” for millennials and Generation Z, echoing Robert Frank’s remarks on the same program. Beeple responded with his own pitch, positioning NFTs as an “alternative asset class” for millennials and Generation Z. During the interview, Beeple also mentioned the possibility of NFTs being a market bubble on the verge of bursting.
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You’re an idiot, I guess
Today on NBC began its coverage before the auction with an objective look at NFTs. In addition to getting first-hand explanations from Beeple and Christie’s contemporary art specialist Noah Davis, reporter Kerry Sanders acknowledged how strange the concept of NFTs may seem to viewers at home. In the wake of Sanders’ initial report, the Today hosts were free to attack the idea of NFTs. When the term “cryptocurrency” came up, one host audibly sighed. Craig Melvin, one of the show’s anchors, imagined a scenario in which two people were looking at the same image on their phones, but one of them paid $2.5 million to purchase it. He told the fictional buyer, “You’re an idiot.”
The show’s analysis of the auction results a day later centered more on the hosts’ embarrassment than the future of NFTs. In a follow-up interview, Kerry Sanders let Beeple take a light-hearted jab at the Today anchors. “I already know that’ll live in infamy,” said co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, referring to her skepticism in the past. Following the Christie’s auction, Today’s coverage treated NFTs more as a curious side story than a subject worth critical examination.
Al Jazeera, an international news outlet owned in part by the Qatari government, framed the Beeple sale as a move to democratize art. “Power to the Beeple,” reads the publication’s headline. The article mentions twice that NFTs appeal to “a new class of collectors,” citing mainly millenial and Generation X bidders. Furthermore, NFTs are presented as a means of determining the authenticity of digital works. Todd Levin in the New York Times gives the first real word on the auction result, a skeptical assessment. “It’s exciting to see a historic inflection point,” the art advisor told the Times. “However, the amount of money involved could skew and damage a nascent emerging market.” Many news outlets portray NFTs as a phenomenon that’s on the rise. However, the New York Times mentions that NFTs were already negatively affected by the collapse of the cryptocurrency market back in 2018. The success of Beeple’s EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS is met with both praise and skepticism within the auction industry. Above all, the $69.3 million result achieved last week ensures that the conversation will continue for a long time to come.
Media Source: AuctionDaily