Blockchain technologies are here to stay and will not only bring a revolution in the handling of information but has also brought a surprisingly new aesthetic. With the multiplication of artists, it can come to represent an important movement within art that already has a name: Crypto Art.
The field of art has always been in constant evolution and has been in charge of reflecting the changes of each moment in history and now is no exception. Currently, it is at the gates of a disruptive era with Crypto Art. This growing artistic expression arises in mid-2010 along with the development of Blockchain services: a unique, consensual, and distributed registry in several nodes of a network that allows the use of Bitcoins and Cryptcoins. Although there is no specific definition, it could be said that there are two currents. One of them refers to the works of art that share the cryptography theme or Blockchain's philosophy in general. But the most accepted is that of the digital artworks that are distributed in the form of a non-expendable token through Blockchain.
From this last, many artists and expert Internet users discovered a new path for art that involves facing the difficulties with copyright and property, the origin, transparency, and authenticity of the works and their authors. With reminiscences to the first avant-gardes, just as digital art, performance, or urban art did in their time, Crypto Art rejects the established norms and repudiates the official art institutions and financial entities. This art is generated, cared for, and sustained by the community in an independent ecosystem, almost always anonymously. But how does it work?
The works of this genre are usually associated with unique tokens that only exist in blockchains. The concept is based on the idea of digital scarcity that allows buying, selling, and exchanging digital products as if they were physical products. The system works precisely because, like cryptocurrency, Crypto Art exists in limited quantity. This will mean a profound change in the art market. In fact, more and more artists and collectors are taking this technology seriously, look at the market, and study its possibilities. Why is this?
On the one hand, it will boost digital art sales due to the possibility of bringing scarcity and authenticity to the works. This means that until now the works have been easy to replicate and when something is copied and distributed in large quantities, its value decreases and the market expectation disappears. Therefore, in order to have value, it needs to be scarce. To do this, artists must issue a limited number of copies by registering them in a public blockchain, as a guarantee of intellectual property. There is no need for third parties to confirm this since the artwork or collection is registered in a publicly distributed and decentralized database, which cannot be modified, so the user can verify at any time that the piece he or she is buying is his or her own and is limited.
On the other hand, Crypto Art will democratize investment in art and reduce the counterfeiting of artistic works, helping to provide a fairer return to creators. Blockchain will reduce art counterfeiting with traceability and verification of provenance. Since in essence blockchain is a publicly distributed and decentralized ledger, it can provide an unalterable record of provenance that begins with authentication and ends with the final owner of the work. But for this, it will always be necessary to promote education to expose and explain the new tools that can be used to achieve this.
To better understand this concept; in 2018 Andy Bauch presented "New Money", a series of abstract paintings that have hidden codes. The works reportedly contain up to 9000 USD in crypto-currencies each. Buying this piece does not mean that you possess the private key, as anyone who discovers the code can take the money for themselves. However, Bauch stated that he will give the buyer of any painting a clue. The works were presented at an exhibition in the Castelli Art Space and he obtained a live broadcast of the changing prices of the money in each private key.
That same year, conceptual artist and photographer, Kevin Abosch, presented the piece "YELLOW LAMBO": a neon sign representing the direction of the intelligent contract of his YLAMB token. He then turned it into a psychic yellow neon sculpture consisting of 42 characters representing a cryptocurrency address. According to Abosch, the goal is to reflect on the value we place on things.
Despite the current period of experimentation and the lack of consensus, these artists share certain traits such as advanced training in technology or commitment and optimism about the long-term potential and impact of blockchain in the art world. Although there is no manifesto, crypto artists build a community whose members feed off each other. There is a sense of belonging empowered by the Internet that pursues the philosophy of unlimited democracy and decentralization by eliminating intermediaries and giving artists more autonomy. Even the use of pseudonyms has become popular so that creators can create and sell while maintaining anonymity, freeing them from social judgment.
But what is most relevant is the idea that Crypto art will be the first truly global art movement. Among the best-known artists are HodlCrypto, Trevor Jones, Guile Gaspar, John Watkinson, Nino Arteiro, Alter Consciens, Nanu Berks, Kevin Abosch, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, and a long list of authors that we will have the opportunity to discover.
Crypto Art is such a novel phenomenon that it is still in the making. Therefore, to judge it today by traditional artistic standards would go against its essence. So the ideal now would be to observe the power of expression and creativity that it brings, and gives it time until it matures to see how far its possibilities can go.