Art Disappearing into the Ether

A Beginner’s Journey into Crypto Art

William House
7 min readMar 28, 2021

Study of Leda — Original Credit: By Leonardo da Vinci -Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Think of crypto art as the end of a long process of human evolution. Prehistoric humans first saw art in their minds, perhaps through dreams or maybe in conscious visions. Eventually, they started crafting what they saw in their minds as small bone, rock, and wood sculptures. Later they transferred mental images onto cave walls with their fingers rubbing rudimentary mixes of colored pigments together in the outlines of animals and such. In that instant, analog painting was invented. Technology improved, and new means of casting images appeared, eventually leading to the master painters of the Renaissance, impressionists, cubists, surrealists, and abstract artists.

Now, crypto art has moved us back into the world of imagination and ether. Digital art is just a set of ones and zeros stored in computer memory. When we properly restore them, we see an image on a screen. When we switch off the screen, the image fades back into the cyber mist. These images are not art in any analog sense, but instead virtual concepts floating in computer space and appearing upon demand for a brief peek.

So, what is the value of an easily reproducible image that may be intriguing but lacks any tangible, extant presence? After all, anyone with a computer could have it on their desktop. The answer is: a lot. Some of these works have sold for tens of millions of dollars, but only when tagged with NFTs.

Non-fungible What?

The same technology that brings us bitcoin also provides NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Blockchain technology authenticates a bitcoin, allowing you to own and trade it. In the case of art, authentication and verifiable uniqueness are what make a piece of crypto art valuable. The term non-fungible relates to uniqueness. The word fungible is an adjective describing something that is easily replaced by an identical, interchangeable item. Non-fungible means the original item cannot be replaced with another identical item, making the original unique. A non-fungible token is a crypto identifier whose uniqueness is verifiable via blockchain.

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William House

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