Andy Warhol (b. 1928 and d. 1987, United States of America) was an artist, film director, producer, and a leading figure of the Pop Art movement. Drawing on his early experiences as a commercial illustrator, Warhol explored the intimate relationships between artistic expression, consumerism, and celebrity culture, applying commercial mass production methods into his processes. His works spanned a variety of media, including painting, silkscreen printing, sculpture, photography, and film. Warhol is highly regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction.
Warhol created Untitled (Flower) in the mid-1980s on a Propaint program on a Commodore Amiga personal computer, a digital representation of one of the artist’s signature motifs. Warhol was a brand ambassador for Commodore International, when he received an Amiga 1000 computer as a gift, marking his first foray into digital paintings. The original digital file was recovered from floppy disks in 2014 and restored to a high-resolution version compatible with today’s technology. Earlier this year, it was minted as an NFT as part of a collaboration between Christie’s and the Andy Warhol Foundation.
Beeple, also known as Mike Winkelmann (b. 1981, United States of America), is a graphic designer and digital artist. He first began posting digital artworks online in 2003, and embarked on his iconic EVERYDAYS series in 2007, creating and posting a new work of art daily without fail. From Day 1 to Day 5,000 and beyond, one is able to witness Beeple’s evolution as an artist throughout the past decade, as he dives into new digital mediums and expands his artistic motifs to reflect and respond to current events. In March 2021, the artist stitched together recurring themes and colour schemes of the series into an aesthetic whole, culminating in Christie’s sale of EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5,000 DAYS for $69 million, as the first fully digital artwork sold at auction and the third most expensive work sold by a living artist.
Refik Anadol (b. 1985, Turkey), currently based in Los Angeles, is a pioneer in the aesthetics of machine intelligence. His body of work addresses the challenges, and the possibilities, that ubiquitous computing has imposed on humanity, and what it means to be a human in the age of AI. Anadol explores how the perception as well as experience of time and space are radically changing with the rise of machines in our everyday life. By proposing the possibility of “post-digital architecture,” the artist invites his audience to imagine alternative realities by re-defining the functionalities of both interior and exterior architectural elements. Residing at the crossroads of art, science, and technology, Anadol’s site-specific three-dimensional data sculptures and paintings, live audio/visual performances, and immersive installations take varied virtual and physical forms. His works have been exhibited at iconic landmarks, museums and festivals worldwide.
Machine Hallucinations: Synthetic Mars Terrain is a poetic journey in the mind of a machine exploring vast synthetic landscapes of Mars to imagine a space yet unreachable by humans. The work provides a unique type of cognitive cartography using a GAN neural network trained on 1.2 millions of photos that the MRO telescope captures of the surface of Mars. HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is the most powerful camera sent to another planet, one of six instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It arrived at Mars in 2006 and has been imaging ever since. The changing projection-mapped virtual texture of the data sculpture is a virtual map on which the planet’s possible futures and hidden histories are revealed.
Generative artist Tyler Hobbs (b. 1987, United States of America) works primarily with algorithms, plotters, and paint. His practice focuses on computational aesthetics, how they are shaped by the biases of modern computer hardware and software, and how they relate to and interact with the natural world around us. Hobbs develops and programs custom algorithms to generate visual imagery. Often, these strike a balance between the cold, hard structure that computers excel at, and the messy, organic chaos we can observe in the natural world around us. Hobbs work has been shown internationally, and has been collected in more than a dozen countries.
The Fidenza series is based on a flow field algorithm which creates unpredictable, organic, non-overlapping curves within a frame. These curves run alongside neighbouring lines without ever colliding. For Fidenza, 14 different probabilistic colour palettes were prepared and each colour in the palette is assigned a probability. Hobbs chooses to use probabilistic colour palettes selected manually, inputting the artist’s hand alongside computer generation. On top of that, there are seven different ‘scales’ which control the sizes of the potential shapes – most scales have a probabilistic mix of small, medium, and large elements.
Robert Alice is a London-based project founded in 2018 by Benjamin Gentilli, an artist and pioneer in the crypto art and NFT space. Gentilli has worked across the art world and the art market in London, Hong Kong and Vancouver. Robert Alice aims to promote blockchain culture in the visual arts. Portraits of a Mind is Robert Alice’s first series, created over a 3-year period, and the first work with an NFT that was offered at an auction house. Following on from Portraits of a Mind, collaborations with artists, creative developers and blockchain stakeholders will see Robert Alice become a decentralised collective.
Portraits of a Mind is Robert Alice’s response to the inevitability of digital degradation and the importance of Bitcoin’s founding code. The series is the largest physical work of art in blockchain’s history, spanning over 40 paintings and consisting of a full transcription of the 12.3 million digits of code that first launched the iconic cryptocurrency in 2008. The painting can be seen as a digital fingerprint carved out of paint, and a pseudo-portrait of Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin.
Canadian artist and coder Dmitri Cherniak (b. Canada), currently based in New York City, considers automation as his primary artistic medium. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Computer Science from McGill University. After quitting his career in finance, he resumed his exploration of algorithmic art, an ongoing interest from his university days. In 2019, he began using social media to share his projects and selling his works on OpenSea and Art Blocks. Cherniak tries to bridge this gap by using software to automate the generation of unique art pieces that aim to elicit the same emotions and reactions that viewers feel when viewing art that has been “generated” by hand. His algorithmic art has been exhibited in galleries and exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, and Miami.
Raf Grassetti (b. 1988) is one of the best known digital sculptors, and has been a digital and traditional artist for nearly two decades. He launched his career as a sculptor, but soon transitioned into digital sculpting after discovering the possibilities of immortalising his subjects in digital stone. The artist worked as a freelance digital sculptor for Hasbro in 2009, as a Lead Character Artist for PlayStation in 2012, and has been with Santa Monica Studio for 8 years. Currently based in Los Angeles, Grassetti is working as an Art Director at Sony Santa Monica’s God of War franchise, as well as his personal art book, exhibition/gallery work, and crypto art. Carrying the legacy of classical sculpture into the 21st century, his virtual sculpting connects the past to our ever-changing present.
In Lady Justice, the winged female figure is a personification of Justice, stepping on crouching Power, the accused. She holds the sword of change with Bitcoin’s logo engraved at its tip, while Future, a graceful Putto, hugs her left leg. Instead of punishment, she offers a sense of clear judgment and redemption. The books and snakes reflect the old failures of our system, while the youth in her arms pleads for renewed belief. Gold, the most malleable of metals, slowly spreads on everything it touches, materialising slow change towards the right path and spreading the ideals depicted into the future.
Sarah Meyohas is a conceptual artist whose practice considers the nature and capabilities of emerging technologies in contemporary society. She holds dual degrees in Finance and International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and in 2015 received her M.F.A. from Yale University. Meyohas creates an intelligible visual language to articulate the systems and technologies that increasingly influence our world. Her film Cloud of Petals has been screened at various film festivals around the world, including the Slamdance Film Festival and the Locarno Film Festival. Her works have been exhibited at institutions, including: the Barbican Centre, London, United Kingdom; the Jameel Arts Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, China.
Bitchcoin is one of the earliest examples of blockchain-based work surfacing in art-world consciousness, even before the emergence of NFTs. The project was initiated in 2015, predating the launch of Ethereum by five months, as a digital currency developed by the artist herself. The token can be exchanged in perpetuity for Meyohas’ future photographic prints. In 2021, Meyohas migrated Bitchcoin from its native chain to Ethereum, releasing reserved tokens based by her seminal Cloud of Petals series. There are only 3291 Bitchcoin tokens with this release.
The widely-celebrated vintage Rare Pepe NFT Series dates back as far as 2016 and contains some of the rarest NFTs. Rare Pepes are seen as iconic staples within the crypto art ecosystem. Jason Bailey, the artist and writer behind Artnome, reported that Rare Pepes initiated out of a Telegram group chat, when a user named Mike paired a Rare Pepe image with a counterparty asset. Gradually, Joe Looney, technologist and creator of the Rare Pepe Wallet, made it possible to buy and sell Rare Pepes on the Decentralized Exchange. Today, Rare Pepes are taken as a ubiquitous symbol and shared visual identifier within the Crypto Art community, representing the growing significance of internet culture and memes.
Created after the Internet’s most popular TV painter, Bob Ross, the Pepe Ross card combines two internet favourites.
Person of the Year 2020 imagines a time when Pepe would be on the front cover of TIME magazine. Initially created as a meme, lending on a culturally significant identifier, this vision turns out to be not so far fetched after all, as Beeple, a pioneer of the Crypto Art movement, graced the TIME cover just a few months later.
Released as one of the first Rare Pepe Collectible Cards, the Nakamoto Card, based on the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, is a historic example of Crypto Art as art created for crypto communities.
Pepe the Frog NFT Genesis is the first authorised Pepe the Frog NFT by creator Matt Furie, and originates from Furie’s Boys Club Comic series where Pepe the Frog first appeared. As the genesis drawing of what has now become an Internet icon, this NFT has been described as a cultural artefact.
XCOPY is a London-based artist, a pioneer and one of the first crypto artists. He began sharing his digital artworks on Tumblr in 2010, then in 2017, entered the world of cryptocurrencies and was fascinated by its potential. His artworks, flashing and distorted visual loops, explore the themes of death, dystopia and apathy, while reflecting key visual identifiers native to the blockchain and crypto communities. Building on his success on NFT marketplaces, XCOPY’s artworks have also been featured in auctions held by Bonhams, Sotheby’s and more.
Blood Bubble (2020) stays true to XCOPY’s signature artistic language of flashing graphics and visual distortion. The GIF depicts a skull with animated facial features, in stark contrast against a still, textural background of white, grey, pink and black. XCOPY’s use of ghoulish figures are commonly compared to the enunciated prophecy of the crypto movement and the death of olden ways.
Coldie (b. United States of America) is an award-winning mixed media artist and the first to tokenise stereoscopic 3D art on-chain. He is recognised as one of the earliest crypto artists. His works have been featured in major cryptocurrency events and national juried art exhibitions. Coldie’s works reflect upon cryptocurrency and blockchain cultures, with his Decentral Eyes portrait series being described as a visual representation of the disruptive industry. His original Proof of Work artwork, minted as early as 2018, is an icon of the early ETH NFT movement.
Decentral Eyes draws from the portraits of important and influential individuals within the blockchain ecosystem. Completed in Coldie’s signature stereoscopic 3D technique, each work is created by collaging over 10 images of the subject matter and assembling them to create tactile portraits within a flat screen. Decental Eyes VR – OG Collage segments Vitalik Butherin’s portrait to 10 distinct layers, introducing an intractability and multi-dimensionality unique to the cross-reality technology it builds on.
DEAFBEEF was initiated in 2020, as the artist began to look back to modular synthesisers, rebuild basic technological tools, to create artworks that drew attention to “scrawling numbers directly into digital storage media later to be interpreted as sound and images” written in C language. The project builds on the artist’s background in electrical engineering, sound recording, music-making and a self-taught career as a blacksmith, as he creates a series of audiovisual works on-chain. DEAFBEEF sees visual perception and auditory perception to influence one another, allowing the audiovisual to be a different medium from sound or visual-only artworks.
Synth Poems are generative audiovisual artworks, inspired by the sound of analog synthesisers. Each piece is generated at the time of minting from a random hash value, influencing musical elements including tempo, timbre, pitch, and time signature. Simple rules lead to surprising variation, giving each piece its own distinctive personality, while retaining a common theme. What the viewer sees is a direct representation of the sound signal, as it would appear on an oscilloscope.
This series invites users to participate in the exploration and co-creation of a generative audiovisual model through programmable media. Collectors are granted editing access by the owner and may continuously explore and choose from a large set of possible outputs. After minting, editors can tweak parameters that determine the output of the model, and store those parameters on-chain. The latter are analogous to the knobs and switches of a modular synthesiser.
Sarah Zucker (b. 1985, United States of America) is a visual artist and writer, and has been involved with the crypto art scene since early 2019. Sarah has a background in the photographic fine art market but now works across mediums, specialising in mixing digital and analog video techniques and the use of VHS. Her art combines “the gorgeous and the grotesque through humour, psychedelia, mysticism” through the interplay of cutting edge and obsolete technologies. In the last few years, she rapidly arose as a leader in the NFT space. In June 2021, her work was auctioned in the first curated NFT sale at Sotheby’s, Natively Digital, as well as the first curated NFT sale at Bonhams in conjunction with SuperRare, CryptOGs. Sarah is also the co-founder of YoMeryl art and animation studio.
Most Everyone’s Mad Here speaks to Sarah Zucker’s signature VHS text art. Completed in the artist’s studio in 2016, the work is created using original digital text animation and analog processing on VHS, filmed in 4K from a vintage CRT TV screen. The work was newly remastered and tokenised in 2021. The loops in Zucker’s art visually reflects an evolution from linear thinking to Boolean thinking— a web-like thought pattern— connecting humanity like nodes in a network. By merging obsolete technologies and vintage aesthetics with the cutting-edge technology of NFTs, the artist intends to evoke the past as a means of glimpsing the future.