You’re at a marquee art auction in the heart of one New York City’s arts district. There’s a lineup of highly coveted million-dollar pieces: Sketches by Andy Warhol, impressions from Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a series of algorithmically generated images of pixelated cyberpunks.
Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. This past May, a collection of 9 cyberfaces, all created by a computer, were sold alongside pieces from some of the 20th century’s most well-regarded artists.
The price tag? $17 million.
These computer-generated art pieces – known as generative art NFTs – have caused mayhem in the 2021 tech market. 15-year-olds are becoming millionaires for their work overnight. Generative art trading platforms like OpenSea have had upwards of $3 billion in sales in a single month.
Generative art NFTs are rapidly reshaping the relationship between art and technology. So what exactly is generative art, and what are NFTs?
In this article, we’ll discuss common definitions, the origins of the market, and where this industry is going.
Generative art is a piece of art created by an automated system, like a computer program. For generative artists, beyond making the art itself, creativity lies in the production of the systems that produce the final art.
The concept of generative art has been around for over 60 years. Advancements in computer technology have enabled it to reach new levels of complexity in recent years.
Generative art has now converged with blockchain technologies like Ethereum. The practice of exchanging generative art on blockchain has become immensely popular, prompting a frenzy of high bidders.
NFTs are also known as non-fungible tokens. In the world of blockchain, NFTs are a stamp of ownership, indicating who the true proprietor of an asset is.
This is critical in the buying and selling of generative art on blockchain. Although these images can be copied and redistributed all over the internet, the NFT ensures that the original purchaser maintains ownership over the art.
NFTs have many other unique functions, which means that they are poised to shape a number of industries for years to come.
Crypto Kitties and Proof of Concept
In 2017, the first-ever blockchain game launched, and it took the world by storm.
Its name? Crypto Kitties. Its gameplay? To buy, raise, and sell virtual kittens for cryptocurrency. The purpose? to prove that there was a market for buying and selling NFTs with cryptocurrencies
On Crypto Kitties, users could buy newborn kittens that were marked with an NFT. In the game, users would raise these kittens and eventually sell them as “full-grown cats” to other users. These users could then try and sell these cats to other users for a profit or use them to breed more kittens.
It was similar in design to many other e-pet games of the times (e.g., Neopets or Webkinz), but it hinged on the exchange of crypto instead of traditional currency.
Despite its viral popularity, many dismissed the game at first. Critics claimed that the cats had no value. They felt that the exchanging of these e-cats for crypto – whose value at the time was also in question – was a fruitless pursuit.
However, the achievement of Crypto Kitties goes well beyond its popularity. Instead, it proved the viability of trading NFTs for cryptocurrency. In many ways, this early pioneer set the stage for the generative art market we have now.
The Future of Art is Generative
Generative art NFTs are here to stay. Works like Cyberpunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club (which sold for $27 million at a Sotheby’s auction earlier this year) have already broken into the mainstream world of fine art.
And it’s not just about a few outliers scoring millions. Generative art has developed into a booming market in which artists of all sizes can sell directly to the consumer and experiment with a start-to-finish digital experience.
For these artists, the contactless process is a part of the artistic expression.
Generative art also maintains certain advantages over traditional art, such as:
Such advantages could have highly practical implications for business art in the future.
There are already examples of generative artists writing computer code that prompts their art to change depending on external factors like the seasons or the weather.
In the future, it’s possible that businesses could use generative art to personalize the user experience. An image could literally change from person to person to reflect the data they know about the customer interacting with it.
The result might be a piece of art that’s even smarter than you.
Need Help with the Latest Design Trends or the Blockchain?
Overwhelmed by the latest trends in digital technology?
Looking to mint your generative art to the blockchain, like Ethereum or Cardano? With Pulp is here to help.
We’re a group of NFT artists and blockchain engineers who can help you take advantage of the authenticity of NFTs. We believe that business should be human-centered, bridging the divide between brands and people.
Drop us a line to see what we can do for you!