If you spend any time on the internet, you’ve doubtless encountered the saga surrounding Beeple’s record-breaking NFT artwork. But why should a digital artist you may have only heard of a couple of weeks ago have all the fun? Why indeed. Enter the Beeple Generator, a website that assembles its own digitally rendered, randomly generated, visual political “commentary” in mere seconds.
SpongeBob’s Patrick Starfish twerking underneath a shower of Bitcoins, Joe Biden staring curiously at a massive Iron Man helmet, a gargantuan Doge dog dabbing behind its army of similarly posed Shreks — you’ll be scamming your way to crypto wealth in no time with your own hastily assembled, socio-political Mad Lib imagery.
If you need reminding, last month Christie’s Auction House announced it would accept cryptocurrency bids for the first time ever during the sale of digital artist Beeple’s piece, Everydays: The First 5000 Days. As the name suggests, the piece is really one giant collage of 5,000 pieces, made over more than a decade, one piece per day, by Beeple.
Christie’s pitched the move as a way to both jazz up the stereotypically stuffy auction world while also democratizing it so anyone could try their hand at buying major artwork. The non-fungible token (NFT) digital asset then sold for over $69 million to a briefly anonymous buyer, MetaKovan, who turned out to be a decidedly shady crypto investor named Vignesh Sundaresan. Oh, and Beeple’s Everydays also includes some pretty racist, transphobic, and sexist content. Which makes it less of an ad for Christie’s progressiveness than it might have hoped.
Coming from a place of love — Co-created by Sam Newell and Vince McKelvie, Beeple Generator somehow manages to succeed at satirizing the art world, pop culture, and gatekeeping far better than anything featured in Beeple’s Everydays. Conversing via Instagram DMs, McKelvie (an artist, creative coder, and game programmer) explained that Beeple Generator genuinely comes from a place of admiration for the digital artist’s work.
“I'm happy for him. he is an open sourced artist, gave a lot of his work away for free with no expectation of monetary gain. I do the same thing, and i think it's cool that he was rewarded for that,” McKelvie says. “[H]is dailies aren't my cup of tea but who cares. also if you post daily it's basically impossible to do it without a somewhat formulaic aesthetic.”
Beeple’s motives unclear, Beeple Generator’s is not — Newell, for their part, also believes Beeple “isn’t out to scam anyone... I don't know many people who would turn down the opportunity that he had and im [sic] sure everyone wants a piece of him right now.” That said, they did admit that Vignesh Sundaresan’s role in the story is somewhat suspect. “There is a lot to talk about with Sundaresan's plan... At first glance it looks like a pyramid scheme lol.”
“[E]verything involving crypto is a scam lmaoo,” McKelvie adds. “it's all a pyramid scheme, including the art platforms... especially the art platforms.”
Regardless of Beeple’s own motives, Newell hopes their and McKelvie’s Beeple Generator can encourage artistic ownership and better compensation. “I don't really think there is anything very interesting about NFTs other than enforcing recurring payments to artists from sales. This is something I have talked about for awhile as something artists shouldn't be afraid to try and write into contracts.”
Get in on the NFT craze while you still can — Currently, Beeple Generator lets you render your randomized creations into downloadable images, but McKelvie says soon you, too, could become a multimillionaire via open-sourced artwork. “oh yeah, they definitely could,” they wrote when asked if anyone could hypothetically turn their own Beeple Generator images into sellable NFTs, adding “...i'm working right now to add a mint button lmao.”
The waters surrounding Everydays: The First 5000 Days may still be murky, but no matter, we’ve already moved on. Beeple is dead. Long live Beeple Generator.