Art is universal and flexible. It speaks to everyone but recognizes no authorities. It adapts to the times and these days it’s going digital. If you dare to publish your work on the web, not only will it stay there forever, but you will also get the chance to reach millions of people.
Even though the internet has extended horizons for artists all around the world, they still struggle with censorship, forgery, and tricky distribution.
But guess what? Blockchain tech is to the rescue.
How Crypto Art Works
Artwork can be tokenized on the blockchain and that’s when the ERC721 token standard comes into play. Also called NFTs or non-fungibles, ERC721 tokens are not mutually interchangeable, which makes them perfect for storing something unique. Art, for example.
Here’s how it generally works:
- An artist uploads a piece to the gallery
- An ERC721 token is being created and recorded on the blockchain as a transaction
- The transaction moves the token that represents the artwork to the wallet of the artist
- The image is uploaded to the IPFS (a p2p file-sharing system)
- When somebody buys the artwork, the NFT is sent to its new owner and this transaction is also recorded on the blockchain
But how does it work in reality? Where do you buy crypto art? What can you do with it? With the physical painting, it’s relatively simple – you either hang it on the wall, donate it to a gallery or museum, resell it, or gift it to someone special.
Well, crypto art is no different.
Crypto Galleries and Auctions
Traditionally, people buy artwork at auctions. ‘Real-life’ auctions can often turn into private events for the wealthy. In the crypto art space, auctions are open to everybody.
For those interested in collecting and trading crypto art, SuperRare is the place to be. If you’re an artist, you need to request an invitation to join SuperRare’s Artist Network. Once accepted you will be able to upload your artwork, tokenize and sell it.
There is a 3% marketplace commission which is only paid by buyers. As for primary sales, creators get 85% of the sale and if their artwork is resold later on, each time that happens they are eligible for a 3% commission.
Collector wannabes need to create an account, get an Ethereum browser and a wallet that supports ERC721, and browse away. If you find something that you like, you can buy it with Ether.
With 255 artists, over 3,300 editions, and having sold more than 10,000 works of art, KnowOrigin is a popular blockchain platform that brings together digital artists and their admirers. To join the club, artists need to fill in a Google form, estimate the price range of their work, and upload their masterpieces.
But KnowOrigin is not only about buying and selling art. They are building a vibrant community of art lovers. For instance, the platform hosted The art of darkness themed challenge encouraging artists from all over the world to express their darker side.
Asynchronous Art is an experimental project that goes beyond tokenization and strives to make the best out of the act of digitalization. Its aim is to promote a new interactive type of art that can evolve over time, react to its owners, and even pull data from the outside.
Async Art introduced the concept of Master and Layers. A Master is a traditional art piece, while Layers are the parts that make up the Master image, and both of them are tokenized. The Master token will always check the Layer tokens and will update the image according to the Layer owner’s input.
This way when you buy a layer you can influence the work of the artists. It is the artist who enables the Layers with a set of abilities, but you are free to change something, little or big, on a layer. And then the Master image will be shifted.
As the creators of Async Art put it, “Art has become programmable, and it’s limited only by your imagination.”
And what about investing in fine art? Is there any place that tokenizes high-profile artworks? Of course, there is! Maecenas is one of the pioneering blockchain art platforms that allows you to buy, sell, and trade part ownership in masterpieces. It is a perfect model for those who aren’t ready to spend hundreds of thousands but want to diversify their portfolio with some fine art investments.
Maecenas breaks multimillion-dollar masterpieces into tokens that represent ownership shares. This way, if you do not have a few spare million to spend on a piece of Picasso’s, Rubens’, or Matisse’s, you can at least own a part of it. And you won’t have to pay unreasonably high commissions as the platform takes only 1% from buyers and 8% from sellers. And of course, you can buy the tokens with both fiat or crypto.
But the easy process of trading art is not the only positive change that blockchain tech modernizes.
Crypto Art Against Censorship
French artist Pascal Boyart, famous for his provocative and anarchistic works, has painted several murals around Paris. His murals have QR codes with his BTC address for donations.
With one of his street works, dedicated to the 10th birthday of the genesis block, the artist proposed a riddle. Boyart revealed the public key and promised a prize of $1,000 worth of BTC for solving the puzzle.
The painting itself was inspired by the work of Eugène Delacroix ‘Liberty leading people’ and portrayed the yellow vest protests movement. Due to a strong political statement, the mural was covered with gray paint. Sadly, that’s not the first time it’s happened to Boyart’s work.
However, this time the story did not end there.
Bnoiit.c, Bitcoin artist and crypto enthusiast, recreated the landmark mural in the Museum of Crypto Art which he founded earlier. The museum is located in the Ethereum-based virtual world of Cryptovoxels.
Although the artist himself mentioned that the puzzle cannot be solved remotely and one has to visit the physical location in order to get the full picture, the work of Bnoiit.c is nevertheless significant. It is a celebration of freedom, decentralization, technology, and, of course, art in all its shapes and forms.
The world of Cryptovoxels is full of blockchain art. It is literally on every corner. You can spend hours wandering around the districts, looking for hidden gems. Or you can create something beautiful yourself – for that you need to buy land and some blocks, build a display, and hang your artwork there. This way you can also showcase your art and put it up for sale via one of the auctions that deal with the crypto art items.
Another virtual world that promotes crypto art is Decentraland, and they also have their own Museum District. Decentraland has recently reached an important milestone. On February 20, 2020 the virtual world officially opened its metaverse to the public. The much-anticipated event inspired one of the most recognizable artists on the modern crypto art scene, Hackatao, to create a series of work dedicated to the grand opening.
The Bottom Line
When blockchain meets art amazing things happen.
Decentralized auctions give artists the opportunity to showcase their work in front of a worldwide audience. Buyers and collectors, in turn, get an easy way to browse through multiple works of art and buy them with crypto.
At the same time, virtual worlds become new harbors for various art gatherings. Even when countries close their borders due to a virus outbreak, the exhibitors can host their event online. And finally, decentralized reality knows no censorship, so every artist can be sure their voice will be heard in the blockchain space.