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What is crypto art?

Between works of art being destroyed and memes selling for millions, you’ve probably already heard of crypto art. It has the potential to be disruptive and to revolutionize the world of art, but what does that really mean?

What is crypto art?

NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital certificate that allows us to prove the authenticity of a good, virtual or not. This is the technology that makes it possible to verify a digital art as unique. Therefore, NFT is not the art itself, it’s its certificate of authenticity.

Crypto art is the name given to digital artworks that have a token proving it’s authentic, making it possible to trade and collect them as originals. That is only possible through the blockchain — similar to a digital ledger. One of the biggest takeaways of NFTs is the possibility it presents artists to sell their work without the need for intermediaries, through what we call smart contracts.

In short, NFTs are to crypto art what certificates were for traditional art.

What makes buying NFTs different from downloading an image?

Imagine visiting an art exhibition and taking a picture of one of the works.

Is photographing the Mona Lisa the same as owning it? | Photo by Alicia Steels at Unsplash

That’s not the same as owning the piece and hanging it on your wall or being able to profit from it.

This might seem somewhat abstract when it comes to digital art, considering the file is on the internet for anyone to see. Just like a replica doesn’t have the same value as the original, right-click-saving a digital art is not the same as owning its NFT. The value isn’t solely on the piece, it’s also associated with its authenticity.

NFTs allow artists to limit the supply of an artwork, which in turn increases its market value — if there’s demand for it.

Without a physical object, how can someone own an original?

The registration, or minting as it’s called in crypto, is done by the artist and the work can be unique — 1 of 1 — or part of a limited series. This is done through the blockchain, which generates a proof of authenticity for each artwork minted. With that, each piece is verifiable and unique and buyers can be certain they are in possession of something exclusive.

Just like a traditional painting, you can exhibit your digital art wherever you want. In this case you might need an appropriate screen, like a Samsung Frame, or another way of casting your virtual art into the real world. What makes crypto art even more special is the possibility to carry your virtual properties throughout the internet and social media, as they adapt to the coming metaverse.

The Frame. Samsung’s solution for the expanding digital art market | Advertising photo by Samsung

If an artwork can be minted several times, what guarantees its value?

We could say this is the third time in art history we’re discussing the matter of reproducibility. First came printing, followed by photography. Now it’s NFTs and digital art that are in the spotlight.

With printing, copies were limited by the methods used, some could only be printed a few times while others could be reproduced by the thousands — given the proper care. When it came to photography, these numbers became almost infinite.

Block print featuring Amelia Earhart | Photo by McGill Library at Unsplash

In this third era, the question finds itself in a digital context: what is the value of something that can be reproduced ad infinitum with little to no effort?

We see examples of value being associated with scarcity in many situations, from luxury brands to pop culture collectables, why would it not be the same with art? Prints and photographs can also be reproduced as many times as the artist desires, but the real value can only be found in numbered copies. Mass produced items have little resale value, but with limited editions the value tends to always rise.

Artists that choose to mint more than one copy know that the individual market value is diluted. Despite nothing stopping them from minting more than the initial agreed series, reputation is something extremely important among NFT collectors and creators.

What does it mean for art history?

Just like many other paradigm shifts in art history, this new revolution has much to add. With technology and softwares becoming increasingly sophisticated and accessible many artists are making a move to the digital world, not to mention those who started their career in it.

Other than being a space with great potential to be more democratic, NFTs enable the exploration of formats that couldn’t easily be translated into traditional art like motion design and 3D, not to mention the reinvention of well established artistic languages like video art and performance.

Marcelo Tinoco
Electropia de verão

Ficha da obra

NFTs open up a whole new universe of possibilities to artists and collectors and, going against the flow, tropix invests in collaborations with art galleries. Our goal is to strengthen the existing market and empower art through technology.

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