What is Crypto Art and How does it Impact the Art World?   

Zacharia S
Zacharia S

7 Nov 2022

9 min read

What is Crypto Art and How does it Impact the Art World?   


The first known NFT was minted in 2014 by digital artist Kevin McCoy. ‘Quantum’ was an NFT minted on the blockchain Namecoin. ‘Quantum’ is a digital image of a pixelated octagon that mimics an octopus in the way that it pulsates and changes color. 

Since 2014 and Kevin McCoy’s first creation there has been massive growth in the NFT, Cryptoverse. The Counterparty Platform (Bitcoin 2.0) had seen and facilitated the age of memes NFTs and Rare Pepe NFTs were released. Fast forward a couple of years, 2021 was deemed ‘The Year of the NFT’. Where ‘Quantum’ was sold for $1.47 million. 

This digital art form has made a space for itself in the world. It for now seems to coexist just fine with the traditional art world with some art from both the traditional and digital art world being worth millions. Both have galleries and dedicated marketplaces. 

Through this article, we’re going to discuss what crypto art is, how it works, and ways in which it differs from traditional art. The dedicated crypto markets that exist. Most importantly we discuss the impact crypto art has on the art world and the impact crypto has on the environment. 


What is Crypto Art?

Crypto art is a digital art form. Crypto art uses blockchain technology to verify ownership. This is where NFTs come into play. NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) are used for verification of the ownership of crypto art. Crypto art is an umbrella term for music, digital graphics, and programmable art. Kevin McCoy, credited as the pioneer of the NFT, mined the first NFT Quantum in 2014. 

Blockchain is a system for storing data in a way that makes hacking or cheating the system difficult or impossible. A blockchain is simply a network of computer systems that duplicates and distributes a digital ledger of transactions across the entire network.

These digital ledgers contain metadata and hashes of NFTs. The properties and metadata of NFTs are what differentiate one from the other. 

How Does It Work?

Crypto, as a concept, operates outside of the banking system using several brands or types of coins, with Bitcoin serving as the main participant.

  1. Mining

Cryptocurrencies are created through a process known as “mining,” which is entirely digital. In order to complete this difficult operation, the miners must resolve a number of mathematical challenges. One bitcoin would be mined in a perfect world in about ten minutes, but in the real world, it takes about thirty days.

  1. Buying, Selling, Storing

Today, users can sell cryptocurrencies to them or purchase them via brokers, exchanges, and private currency owners. The simplest ways to purchase or sell cryptocurrencies are through exchanges or online marketplaces like Coinbase.

Cryptocurrencies can be kept in digital wallets after purchase. You can have “hot” or “cold” digital wallets. Hot refers to a wallet that is online-connected, making transactions simple but leaving it open to fraud and theft. On the other side, cold storage is safer but makes transactions more difficult.

  1. Transacting/ Investing

The transfer of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoins between digital wallets is simple and requires only a smartphone.

The simplest way to make purchases with Bitcoin is through debit-card-style transactions. These debit cards allow you to make cash withdrawals just like at an ATM. Using banking accounts or peer-to-peer transactions, it is also feasible to convert cryptocurrencies to cash.

We also spoke about NFTs and NFT minting and explained the process further.

How Crypto Art Differs from Traditional Art

The traditional art world has existed forever. Start with cave paintings and as things evolved paintings, music, sculptures, theatre and so much more came under the term traditional art. Digital art came about in the 1960s. This is considered “new media art”, this new media art includes digital photography, multimedia art, and computer art. 

NFTs are mostly intangible whereas traditional art is tangible and exists primarily in physical form. Most traditional art is housed in structures. Crypto art on the other hand does not require physical storage. 

Another difference is the ease of verifying authenticity. NFTs are fairly easy to authenticate and check ownership. To authenticate traditional art is expensive and time-consuming. Traditional art can also be forged easily by someone with the right skill set. 

With NFTs, it’s slightly easier to reach the same level as the top digital artists. Allowing you to earn quickly and hopefully in the same lifetime. Traditional art is a lot more brutal. Many famous artists died unknown and broke, without a penny to their names. Their work now is worth billions. 

Crypto Art & The Market

Before getting into the purchase of crypto art and digital investment, it is always good to do your research and due diligence. This is what would be expected of you even when purchasing traditional art. 

Since ‘The Year of NFTs’ 2021. There have been over 1.7 million crypto artworks sold through various marketplaces for NFTs. 

These NFT marketplaces not only deal in Crypto art but also deal with games, trading cards, and virtual real estate. Economically speaking investment in NFTs doesn’t currently rival investing in currency trading and things of that nature.

NFT uses the ERC721 token standard, which is a smart contract built on Ethereum. This is tamperproof and guarantees the authenticity of a digital file. 

The magical universe of crypto and NFTs lured museums to join the action. The Uffizi in Florence, sold an NFT of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo in 2021 for €140,000. Some Museums have also purchased digital art to showcase themselves. 

The most expensive crypto sold to date has been Pak’s “The Merge” which sold for $91.8 million.

Market Places for Crypto Art

There are a lot of different platforms and marketplaces for crypto art. We’re discussing 3 major ones in the crypto-verse. 

Monthly Crypto Art Volume 2020-2021 Marc


Founded in 2017 through excitement raised by the creation of early NFT projects like cryptokitties that resided on the blockchain instead of a company-based server. OpenSea is currently the largest NFT marketplace with millions of different kinds of NFTS. These NFTs are available for users and creators to buy and sell. 


SuperRare is a community-based entity that aims to build a new art marketplace that works for the people. It allows artists to earn royalties in perpetuity. SuperRare also encourages digital artists to stay independent by creating custom contracts and maintaining a direct relationship with their audience. It also has its curation token $RARE.


A digital art marketplace that is powered by Ethereum. It empowers artists by providing them with a platform to showcase and sell their work securely using a public blockchain solution. KnownOrigin is an artist-driven platform that aims to make itself an important pillar in the future of Web 3.0.  

Notable Examples of Crypto Art

There are numerous NFT artists, but only a select few are truly upending the industry, shaping cryptocurrency art history, and fundamentally changing how digital art has previously presented itself to the market. 

1. Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days

One of the first digital artists to enter the NFT zone was Mike Winkelmann, better known by his stage name Beeple. The highest praise goes to this graphic designer-turned-NFT artist for bringing NFTs to the public’s attention and shining a light on them.

Everydays: The First 5000 Days, Credit: Beeple

The most well-known NFT art was auctioned by Beeple in March 2021, shattering all previous records and topping the rankings. The collage of 5,000 tiny NFTs, titled Everydays: The First 5000 Days, was created over the course of 13 years. It was the first of its kind to be auctioned off by the prestigious Christie’s, and it sold for an astounding $69,346,250.

2. Pak’s The Merge

Pak is a well-known crypto artist who keeps their identity a secret. Apart from maintaining the well-known Twitter account Archillect and the Undream Studio, not much is known about Pak. Pak has long been a part of the ever-changing crypto art scene, despite their obscurity and lack of identity.

The Merge, Credit: Pak

Pak published several digital works on sites including Sotheby’s and the Nifty Gateway. Pak’s ‘The Merge’ is currently the most expensive crypto sold at $91.8 million. 

3. XCopy’s Right-Click and Save As Guy

XCopy is a well-known digital artist who has long established himself as a master of NFT. XCopy, who is nothing less than a well-known star in this field, maintains his anonymity but is widely known to reside in London.

Right-Click and Save Guy, Credit: X-Copy

His infamous Right-Click and Save As Guy NFT increased in popularity. Snoop Dogg, purchased him for an estimated USD 7 million. The well-known NFT is a parody of digital-art critics who believe that this medium is completely worthless and that anyone can save and buy online artwork with a single click.

4. Fewocious’s Nice to Meet you

FEWOCiOUS is tangible evidence that age is not a factor in success. Victor Langois, 19, already has a sizable fan base and a successful career in digital art thanks to the NFT and crypto art communities.

Nice to meet you. Credit: Fewocious

In June 2021, FEWOCiOUS set a world record when the enormous number of collectors eager to purchase the works of the young NFT artist caused Christie’s website to break down. The auction had to be rescheduled to better prepare the system for managing a huge number of users. Not to add that FEWOCiOUS is the renowned auction house’s youngest featured artist.

5. Trevorjonesart’s The Architect

Trevor Jones investigates how technology, such as augmented reality, near-field communication (NFC) tags, video production, and animation, might be utilized to enhance or change the experience of the spectator. His interests in cryptocurrencies have recently become more and more entwined with the topics that inform his art.

The Architect Credit: Trevor Jones

Trevor Jones, a British artist, creates NFTs using videos of AR paintings. Jones has a long-standing fascination with pushing the boundaries of technologically enhanced art. The artist looked into how oil paintings and QR codes could work together in 2012.

Impact of Crypto Art

Crypto has had a lot of impact on the real world. Environmentally and in other ways…

Impact of Crypto Art on the Art World

Positive Impact

  • Allows artists to sell directly to buyers using crypto marketplaces. Thus removing the middleman ever present in the traditional art world
  • Allows digital artists to continue earning royalties from their work
  • Creating a new community and class of art buyers
  • Makes proving ownership and authenticity extremely easy

Negative Impact

  • You aren’t always guaranteed a physical piece of art
  • The market isn’t regulated like the market for traditional art so you must exercise caution
  • Because of the rising popularity of crypto, there are plenty of scams

Impact of Crypto Art on the Environment

Negative Impact

  • Extremely energy inefficient
  • Insane amounts of carbon emissions. For example, the NFT ‘Space Cat’ created a carbon footprint equal to an average UK resident’s electricity consumption of 2 months
  • When you mine or add an NFT to a blockchain it uses around 83kgs of CO2.
  • Cryptokitties to date emitted 239.83 million kilograms of carbon dioxide. 

Positive Impact

  • Ethereum in September 2022 transitioned to proof-of-work leading to a significant drop in energy use
  • NFT marketplaces and creators are aware of the environmental impact and are actively working toward a solution
  • Planting of trees has been widely discussed where NFTs can be purchased and that symbolizes a tree that will be planted by the concerned project. 
  • ‘Gas Fees’ are charged when you mine

Final Thoughts

Crypto is here to stay. While the environmental impacts are negative, there is positive action being taken toward the betterment and improving the impact of NFTs. 

While major museums and auction houses have already joined the crypto game, in Nov 2022, tech-giant Meta threw its hat in the crypto ring. Meta announced that Instagram will slowly allow creators to make and sell NFTs to fans off and on Instagram. 

Meta promises to cover ‘gas fees’ and will soon start testing these new features in the U.S. and slowly expand worldwide. Meta’s Instagram becoming an NFT marketplace is further proof that crypto is here to stay!


What qualifies as crypto art? 

Crypto art is any digital artwork that uses blockchain technology to establish ownership.

Is crypto art real art? 

Yes, Crypto art is real art. It can be both digital and physical works of art 

Are NFT and crypto art the same? 

No. NFT and Crypto art is not the same. The term “crypto art” refers to digital works of art that are purchased using cryptocurrencies, whereas anything can be an NFT even if it has nothing to do with art.

What exactly is NFT art? 

NFT art is digital versions of physical collectibles. So the purchaser receives a digital file rather than an actual oil painting. Additionally, they receive sole ownership rights.

Where can I sell crypto art?

There are dedicated crypto marketplaces like OpenSea, SuperRare, and KnownOrigin where you can sell crypto art. 

Where can I buy crypto art? 

There are dedicated crypto marketplaces like OpenSea, SuperRare, and KnownOrigin where you can buy crypto art.


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