Opinion: Crypto art could be the future of the art industry

Michelle Jin, Staff Writer

Art by Katie Lew.

In this online age where technology is constantly advancing, digital artists are finding new ways to show and sell their works. Crypto art, in simple terms, is digital art relating to Blockchain technology, where data is stored in “blocks” of information and then linked together in a permanent “chain.”It’s a digital record of transactions made online. This allows  consumers to buy, sell and trade the artworks as if they are physical ones. 

Crypto art can come in any style and almost every medium of art can be turned into crypto art by scanning and then turning it into a non-fungible token (NFT) by minting it. The most well-known form of crypto art is built by using 3D rendering then adding colors to it. Crypto art is verified using an NFT . NFT is a token that represents a unique ID that’s linked to a piece of crypto art and cannot be replicated. It is used to verify the ownership of that piece of artwork. Since digital art is more difficult to own than traditional art because of ownership issues regarding originality, “crypto art” was created around 2010 to solve this problem. Although at the same time, it created new problems. Because anyone can download a high-quality image online and save it for themselves, there has to be evidence that someone bought the piece and officially owns it. That’s where Blockchain comes in.

Blockchain is a database that is used to exchange cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. The benefits of exchanging digital art on Blockchain is similar to exchanging cryptocurrency. Crypto art can be exchanged like cryptocurrencies through a digital money called Ethereum. Since each piece of crypto art is one-of-a-kind, where only one person can officially own it at once, the issue of shareability can affect the artwork’s value. So Blockchain allows art collectors to own digital art in another way. This way, digital artists can sell their works and establish the value of their pieces, which can be bought by collectors who will have records of their ownership. 

But can’t someone just download a picture of the work online? Can’t they get the same picture without paying the price? Well, in simple terms, yes. However, the image that anyone can download online is worthless, but the original work that is NFT-linked is the only one in the world and it can possibly increase in value over time. The artwork’s value stems from its limited supplies, so although there are reproductions and images online, the original one holds the greatest value. Some people buy crypto art solely for it to rise in value, and others buy the works because they feel a connection to it or they want to support the artist. One artist, known by the name Beeple, has sold the highest valued crypto art to date for nearly $70 million. This piece is called Everydays: the First 5000 Days”. He is one of the most well-known artists in this community and has said that the auction bid “probably means digital art is here to stay.”

Just like the saying “when you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck,” by Paul Virilo, every invention of technology carries its own downside. There are a number of environmental concerns for crypto art. Since crypto art lives on the Ethereum Blockchain, and Blockchain technology itself takes a massive amount of energy, the current model is very harmful to the environment. The reason why crypto art requires so much energy is because major cryptocurrencies use a protocol to determine their value. The average carbon footprint of a single work of crypto art averages about double a person’s annual carbon footprint. Despite this, there is work being done to get the Ethereum Blockchain to a much more sustainable path, called Ethereum 2.0, that would reduce energy consumption by 99%. Technological advances are inevitable. So in this case, it’s better to embrace technology than to be against it. 

Crypto art has a huge impact on investors, consumers and artists. It’s a new and exciting concept, with many possibilities. Every piece of crypto art that has been minted is going to be forever on the Blockchain, eliminating doubts of authenticity and ownership. Collectors also want to know that they own a one-of-a-kind work, something that’s rare. Often in the fine-art world artists rely on auction houses, gallery owners and expensive advisor coordinations, but crypto art can be transferred between creator and buyer in a matter of minutes. 

Crypto artists can also put their works on various marketplaces simultaneously, allowing for more opportunities and wider exposure for the artist. This makes viewing art incredibly easy now since the market is online, and this is a really good advantage that most artists need to get their art out into the world without having to pay the price of signing with a gallery. For the future of the art world, I can imagine that most galleries will have an online platform where consumers can view and purchase art online. 

Another benefit that has come out of crypto art is the ability for artists to be creative without boundaries. For example, photography has struggled to be accepted as a fine arts form. But through minting, the photograph can also be listed on the crypto art market along with other art forms. Virtual photos are already selling for as much as $1 million. Bringing more digital art into the fine art world releases an entire new medium of creativity that has never been fully appreciated before. As VR and AR increasingly develop, digital art fits right into the category. AR and VR have already begun to reform the art world. AR has the ability to make fine art more accessible to global audiences. Saatchi Arts, an art gallery, has a feature that lets users see what works of art would look like in their own homes, and to scale, on their phones. I believe that technology is going to change and reshape the future of art more than it already has and help the art world grow into new markets. 

In reality, no one can be certain whether crypto art will be widely used in the art world. But for now, crypto art is fairly new and an exciting medium for creative people to explore.