NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – For centuries, artists have used physical mediums like paints and canvas to create their works. Auctioneers are accustomed to buyers shelling out millions to be the exclusive owner of an original painting, one that they can hang on the walls of their home and pass by every day. But the recent sale of a digital piece by a Lowcountry artist has shattered everything we think we know about ‘modern art.’

Mike Winklemann, known as Beeple, creates digital works. A graphic designer by trade, Winklemann “does a variety of digital artwork including short films, creative commons VJ loops, everydays, and VR/AR work,” according to his website.

His clients include Louis Vuitton, Apple, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Justin Bieber, Eminem, One Direction, Katy Perry, and more.

But perhaps his greatest achievement is a recent piece called “EVERYDAYS: The First 5000 Days” which is a collage of digital artworks Winklemann has been posting every single day for over 10 years.

This undated photo released by Christie’s on Thursday, March 11, 2021 shows a digital collage titled “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” by an artist named Beeple. Christie’s says it has auctioned off a digital collage by an artist named Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, for nearly $70 million, in an unprecedented sale of a digital artwork that fetched more money than physical works by many better known artists. The piece sold for $69.4 million in an online auction, “positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists,” Christie’s said via Twitter on Thursday. (Christie’s via AP)

The piece sold for $69.4 million at a Christie’s auction house auction.

While anyone can view the image, the buyer receives the piece in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT), which the Associated Press describes as “electronic identifiers confirming a digital collectible is real by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain.”

“Artists have been using hardware and software to create artwork and distribute it on the internet for the last 20+ years but there was never a real way to truly own and collect it,” Winklemann said in a statement released by Christie’s. “With NFT’s that has now changed. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the next chapter in art history, digital art.”

Andrew Wright, a digital expert, says this is just the beginning:

“There’s things that you can do on a computer that were impossible before,” Wright says. “We could possibly be seeing the emergence of a new medium, creating a new art movement in the history of art.”

Kelly Grossman with The Art Mecca of Charleston says she’s impressed with the art, but tangible art can never be replaced:

“Being very creative with their hands, I think that is very important and i think we will always have that,” Grossman says.

Following the sale, Winklemann took to social media, expressing his shock and saying that he is still processing what just happened.