One last horizon, which might seem like a third option in relation to some of the issues raised in the last chapter (inherent to the gift economy and the fact that artists shouldn’t necessarily have to produce unique pieces), may just be what is known as crypto art.
With crypto art, technology makes it possible to render a broad number of digital artworks unique, and thus more valuable and marketable, thereby mitigating one of their greatest vulnerabilities: their potentially unlimited, uncontrolled replicability.
Crypto art is coming into its own, in spite of the inevitable bubble created by the recent boom of crypto technology. However, before going into detail and talking about crypto art, we should introduce a few specific terms that are fundamental to understanding this phenomenon: cryptocurrency, blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Introduction to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology
If there’s one word that, since the advent of bitcoin (a digital currency created in 2009 by a developer or group of developers going by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto), has resounded in the mass media and thus garnered public attention, it’s “cryptocurrency.”
Cryptocurrencies are digital forms of money based on cryptography (meaning “hidden writing,” a sort of code that makes a message indecipherable except to those authorized to read it).
Essentially, cryptocurrencies are global, egalitarian, decentralized, virtual forms of currency, and thus inherently different than traditional forms of money, which are local and centralized (i.e., issued by a central bank).
As is easy to imagine, cryptocurrencies are double-linked to crypto art, which we’ll discuss shortly. And both are made possible thanks to one type of technology: blockchains.
We won’t go into too much technical detail, but the basic idea is that a blockchain is a sort of digital ledger that’s shared on a global network and distributed across multiple computers (a decentralized system), the goal of which is to irrefutably and permanently authenticate and attest to digital transactions, assets and resources of various types and origins.
Thanks to blockchain technology and cryptography, we have witnessed the birth of an unprecedented web phenomenon in recent years: the sale of particular works of art through non-fungible tokens—NFTs for short.