HomeCryptoCrypto art: the future is now

Crypto art: the future is now

Crypto art, the blockchain applied to creativity, is the most contemporary manifestation of art.

What constitutes art is not sure, but it can be understood as a different perception of the world, which captures its spirit anticipating the future.

This spirit always manifests itself in different places. The current space is the web.

Art speaks the language of its time. The current language is digital.  

crypto art

Unlike cryptocurrencies and tokens, which are identical to each other, crypto art tokens are usually NFTs, non-fungible tokens, which are cryptographic codes that are not interchangeable and can represent a unique asset, determining their commercial value. 

Faced with the infinite reproducibility of digital content, NFTs are equivalent to an artist’s signature, a certificate of origin kept permanently on the blockchain’s decentralized ledger. The artist can thus create a series of visually identical digital works – the equivalent of artworks in limited editions or prints – and administer them as separate entities.

This places crypto art in the growing market for collectable digital assets that can be collected through the purchase of the relevant tokens.

Early examples of NFTs include projects such as CryptoPunks, which has recently attracted important personalities and significant capital.

Rare Pepe is the first art project on blockchain. Originally a comic book by Matt Furie, someone digitized and tokenized the frog on Counterparty using the Bitcoin Blockchain. 

What happened then, just like the pizza for Bitcoin, made history as a sign of consensus: someone decided to buy it, making the first artistic transaction on the blockchain. 

Another peculiarity of the project is the birth of the community of enthusiasts who submitted their creations to a spontaneous committee that certified all 1,774 Pepe sent as “dank” and “rare”. 

A symbol of the community spirit linked to crypto art, Rare Pepe in Venezuela and elsewhere has even allowed some artists to financially support their families.

The project that made crypto collectable a mass phenomenon, however, is CryptoKitties, an online game based on the Ethereum Blockchain, populated by feline-like characters, whose most expensive NFT was purchased in 2018 at 600 Ether ($170,000), Ethereum’s native currency.

So what is crypto art?

Despite the lack of an unambiguous definition, crypto art refers to digital art, whether it starts from a tangible object or is digitally native, linked to the blockchain. 

The potential of this new concept lies precisely in giving a virtual image the dignity of a work of art, made unique, eternal and collectable through the association with a token that proves its origin, rarity and ownership.

When collectors buy crypto art works, they store in their digital wallets the associated code, not the artwork itself – even if recently platforms such as InfiNFT also host images, even in 3D, on the blockchain, as a precursor to a new era. 

How does the tokenization of a work on Ethereum take place?

When artists upload their works to a digital art platform, a transaction is created on the Ethereum blockchain. This moves the token, created by the platform, into the wallets of the artists, acting as a digital signature of the same: a sort of authenticity of the uploaded work. The work of art, intended as an actual image, is instead uploaded to IPFS, a system capable of containing a substantial amount of data. The link to IPFS is recorded in a blockchain transaction. 

Which are the biggest crypto art markets?

Like traditional art, digital art has its galleries, online and with a peer-to-peer structure. On Ethereum, the main ones are SuperRare, for single edition works, KnownOrigin, for multiples, and Async.art, for programmable art with shared ownership. Another key marketplace is OpenSea, with a greater variety of collectables. 

Crypto art is also present in VR worlds such as Decentraland and Cryptovoxels, which recently hosted an Italian crypto art exhibition.

Through the smart contracts of these galleries, which regulate NFT and cryptocurrency transactions between artists’ and collectors’ wallets, the blockchain has also solved a serious problem of traditional art, related to the management of royalties in the secondary market. Usually auction houses exclude artists from remuneration on secondary sales, a new standard now applies: on different digital art platforms, when a work is bought back, the author himself receives a remuneration of 10% of the new sale price.

The secondary market phenomenon involves artists, collectors and curators.

In two years of activity on SuperRare, the Italian duo Hackatao has sold twenty-three crypto works on the secondary market – seven in the last two months. 

One of their GIFs, sold for 1.5 Ether ($450) in 2018, was bought back for the third time days ago at the beauty of 45 Ether ($9,019).

Jason Bailey, curator and founder of Artnome, purchased Robbie Barrat’s AI Generated Portrait Nude #1 for about $80 (0.46 Ether at the time) in 2018 and recently sold the work for over $12,000 (75 Ether). The almost $5,000 from the sale of Lockup, which he bought two years ago from XCOPY for only $71, was donated to support SuperRare’s artists.

One of the most unique aspects of crypto art is its community. It is a concrete space where an artist, whether skilled or not, can experiment and interact at an international level, with technology, creativity and traditional techniques. 

The key word of the community is collaboration, there is great mutual support in the search for the personal combination of technique, message, style, social activities and self-promotion. This spirit is supported by the exclusive focus on art: artists often remain anonymous or use pseudonyms; gender, ethnicity, social status disappear.

From a cultural point of view, crypto art is essentially a manifestation of contemporary living. Even the world of gaming – and its market – is increasingly connected to that of crypto art, a genre at the intersection between artistic creation and digital interaction. This trend, while remaining inclusive, reflects the spirit of the new generations that will shape our tomorrow.

In essence, the future of art is now, and it’s crypto art.


Art curator and editor Chiara Braidotti
Art curator and gallerist Eleonora Brizi