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Buyer of $69 million Beeple NFT is a crypto investor using the pseudonym Metakovan

The announcement partially solves the biggest mystery behind the most dramatic transaction in the art world since Leonardo DaVinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450 million in 2017.
"The First 5,000 Days" by digital artist Beeple.
"The First 5,000 Days" by digital artist Beeple.Handout / AFP - Getty Images
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The buyer of the Beeple non-fungible token for $69 million was a crypto investor who goes by the pseudonym of Metakovan.

Metakovan’s real identity is not known, but the investor is the co-founder of the NFT collection called Metapurse, which collects NFTs to display in the metaverse through virtual museums. Metakovan already owns the largest collection of Beeples, and fractionalized the ownership of one collection of Beeples with a special token called the B.20 Coin.

CNBC spoke with Metakovan’s partner in Metapurse, who goes by the name of Twobadour, who said the NFT is “the most valuable work of its generation.

Twobadour said they don’t know their exact plans for this work, but options include fractionalizing it or offering it as a new token. He said the goal is not to make money, but to decentralize and democratize art so token holders everywhere can share a piece of history and share the wealth.

For example, it’s like if people could go to the Museum of Modern Art and actually own some of the work, he said.

“We made history and we created a god” in Beeple, he said.

The announcement only partially solves the biggest mystery behind the most dramatic transaction in the art world since Leonardo DaVinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450 million in 2017. The market for NFTs — which can be any digital asset whose ownership is recorded on a blockchain -- has exploded in recent weeks to over $400 million as a vast new army of young collectors pay record prices for everything from NBA highlight videos to cat memes and art.

For his $69 million, Metakovan will get “essentially a long string of numbers and letters,” according to Noah Davis, an art specialist at Christie’s. “It’s a code that exists on the Ethereum blockchain. It is a block in the chain that will be dropped into their Ethereum wallet.” The buyer also gets “a gigantic JPEG,” Davis said.

The sale capped two weeks of frenzied online bidding and ushers in a new era in collectibles, where prices for blockchain-based digital images now rival prices paid for Picassos and Monets. While the future of NFT prices and their longer-term role in the art world remains an open question, and many see it as a speculative fad, the eight-figure price for the Beeple has caused the art world to suddenly take notice.

Artist Beeple aka Mike Winkelmann.
Artist Beeple aka Mike Winkelmann. Scott Winkelmann / AFP - Getty Images

Shortly after the auction result, Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, tweeted: “holy f---” On Thursday night, he also tweeted an image of a digitized “Mona Lisa” with the caption: “THE NEXT CHAPTER.”

The record-breaking work, called “The First 5,000 days” was the first ever to sell at a major auction house.

In 2007, Winkelmann set out to post a new work of digital art every day for the rest of his life and hasn’t missed a single day. The first 5,000 of those works, which he calls “Everydays,” were compiled to form “The First 5,000 days.”