People often want to assign a hierarchy to art.
This need to classify is clearly evident in new and transitional styles like crypto and blockchain art. With so much innovative and unusual work out there, people are ready to nail down some sort of ranking.
The thing is, not all art is intended for the same purpose.
That makes it hard to compare work side-by-side and then hold up a “winner.” If two artists are trying to evoke different emotions or serve particular purposes, then it’s impossible to compare the pieces to each other. Instead, we should be asking if a piece fulfills the intentions of the artist.
If that is done successfully, then the artist has accomplished something.
While digital and crypto art may seem different from what the art world is used to, it’s actually following in a long tradition of new and initially disconcerting art.
As someone with a background in both the traditional and crypto art spaces, here’s how I think about it:
1. Crypto art falls into three main categories.
The first type of art in the crypto space is technology-based.
A good example here is Kevin Abosch, who has tokenized his blood in the project IAMA COIN, incorporating actual blockchain technology into his art. People can literally now buy shares of “him” that are part of his physical being. Another is CoinArtist, who is using blockchain technology to create puzzles and games that have to be decrypted.
Even though these two artists’ styles are radically different from each other, both CoinArtist and Abosch fall under the umbrella of art that is actually crypto-based and relies on the technology itself to work.
The second category of crypto art utilizes blockchain solutions that exist separately from the nature of the artwork itself.
For example, an artist in this group may register a physical painting of a vase of flowers on the Blockchain Art Collective — and then tokenize it via a counterparty bitcoin token.
The third type of crypto art is where artists use traditional forms, but make the subject matter referential to crypto and blockchain.
There is some debate about this category and whether it truly falls under the umbrella of crypto art.
I like to think of Warhol, whose work was very focused around fame, pop culture, and money, and who literally painted dollar signs at one point. Of course, it was about money — that’s what it brings to mind for the viewers. And when you see bitcoin in art, it makes you think of cryptocurrency, decentralization, blockchain, and other concepts surrounding the space.
In my mind, the content of an artwork, and what it’s speaking to, is also a critical part of what it is when experienced as art.
2. Artists are shaping the space and experimenting.
A wide variety of artists out there are doing unique and groundbreaking work. It doesn’t take much to learn about them, either. Here are a few artists to look to in the crypto space:
- Eve Sussman recently made a film about the famous Diego Velásquez painting Las Meninas and is now tokenizing pixelated stills from the film with Snark.Art.
- Nanu Berks artwork speaks to the imagery of association with blockchain and crypto.
- Sites like DADA allow people to co-create digital artwork together and come up with wild, intricate drawings you can collect.
- Plantoids, the brainchild of Primavera de Filippi, are physical sculptures that “grow” when people donate bitcoin to pay for the supplies and labor of building them.
3. Digital and crypto art is constantly being represented in new ways.
So much of the innovation happening is collectively tied up in education.
Looking back through different time periods, artists have always thought of new ways to visually represent things and concepts. Picasso, van Gogh, Hilma af Klint — they all pushed boundaries at their times and affected the art environment as we know it today.
Sometimes the medium changes. Sometimes the concept is transformed. In other cases, artists adapt the subject matter to their work. The only constant is change, and no matter what comes out of that, the art world is benefitting from something new.
New ideas, new styles, new formats — they’re all part of each successive wave when you look back through the history books.
The crypto space is experiencing this today.
There are so many different phrases people use to speak about an era when new concepts and ideologies were introduced. We’re moving along a line of contemporary art, post-internet art, and now crypto art.
This is a new wave of art and artists. It’s exciting we have the resources and ability to get informed and educated about it now, while it’s happening, and to shape what it looks like when we read about crypto art in the timeline of art history in the years to come.