A history of “crypto art”

Thursday 3rd June, 2021 - Bruce Sterling


The Non-Fungible Token scene caught fire in 2021, but for a full ten years before that, technology artists were extensively experimenting with blockchains and other forms of cryptography.


Here at Share Festival it’s been our experience that the pioneers rarely get their due; it’s quite common for innovations to bubble along in the lab for a decade or more before gaining some mass attention (if they ever do).  However, somebody ought to know about that process of lab work and creative experimentation.  Why not you?


So, this is a crypto art chronology assembled by crypto art veteran Martin Lukas Ostachowski.  If you understand this, you’ll know more than 99% of  the crowd  who is suddenly interested in NFTs today.





Which is the first tokenized crypto artwork?


The first crypto art was tokenized on the NameCoin Blockchain with Monegraph (Monetized Graphics) by Kevin McCoy and Anil Dash during the Seven on Seven conference hosted by Rhizome at the New Museum on May 2, 2014.


Other notable early crypto artworks were issued on the Counterparty blockchain, such as Rhea Myers’ tokenized MYSOUL on November 11, 2014, the FDCARD created by game studio EverdreamSoft on March 11, 2015 or the Rare Pepe created by Mike on September 9, 2016.




July 30th, 2011 – First ASCII tribute/eulogy/image on the Bitcoin Blockchain


Often referred to as ASCII BERNANKE, Dan Kaminsky embeds the first tribute/eulogy and ASCII image in honour of cryptographer Len Sassaman.


October 25th, 2011 – Launch of Casascius Coins Mike Caldwell starts issuing Casascius Coins, which are physical metal-plated or pure gold Bitcoins including authenticity holograms with private keys.




March 27th, 2012 – Proposal of Coloured Coins Yoni Assia’s Coloured Coins introduce the idea of cryptocurrency to represent other assets, which is arguably the beginning of non-fungible tokens….