A blockchain art history timeline

Thursday 3rd June, 2021 - Bruce Sterling


Here’s a worthy effort at blockchain art history compiled by our esteemed colleagues at “Furtherfield.”  It’s way too early for any definitive history, but they’re putting in some noble effort here, so we should profit by it.




Most artworld engagements with blockchain technologies have focused on the business of art. Artworld business stakeholders and start-ups are developing blockchain technologies to track ownership and provenance and provide an infrastructure for fractional artwork sales.


By contrast, the impact of blockchain-based tools on practices of curation and collective decision-making have been less considered but will come to have a major impact on art history since they will play a part in determining which artworks enter into “the canon” and which do not. 


This report offers a proposal for such a timeline, outlining a technical approach and the processes necessary for its creation, as well as a potential strategy for its visualisation. It also presents the findings of the art historical, curatorial and artistic research that underpins the development of the timeline: examples of milestone artworks, a discussion of the conceptual frameworks of the project, and a consideration of the uses and limitations of the timeline as a form.