An excerpt from the latest issue of “Leonardo”

Thursday 26th August, 2021 - Bruce Sterling


Crypto art is limited-edition digital art, cryptographically registered with a token on a blockchain. Tokens represent a transparent, auditable origin and provenance for a piece of digital art. Blockchain technology allows tokens to be held and securely traded without the involvement of third parties. Crypto art draws its origins from conceptual art—sharing the immaterial and distributive nature of artworks, the tight blending of artworks with currency and the rejection of conventional art markets and institutions. The authors propose a collection of viewpoints on crypto art from different actors within the system: artists, collectors, gallerists, art historians and data scientists. A set of emerging themes and open challenges surfaces.


Crypto art is a recent artistic movement in which the artist produces works of art, typically still or animated images, and distributes them via a crypto art gallery or their own digital channel using blockchain technology. In order to illustrate the movement from a variety of perspectives, as well as to highlight open challenges, we wrote a “decentralized” position paper on crypto art, which includes viewpoints from different actors within the system. The writing process went as follows:

1. A general definition of the topic was put forward by Massimo Franceschet and Giovanni Colavizza and used as reference in asking a set of diverse authors to contribute their viewpoints asynchronously and independently. Franceschet and Colavizza offered no guidelines before the authors submitted their first drafts.

2. Afterward, all authors read and commented on one another’s work, and Franceschet and Colavizza encouraged the authors to make connections among viewpoints explicit. Franceschet and Colavizza further asked each author to suggest open questions and future perspectives on the topic of crypto art from their vantage points. Each author kept full control of their own section at all times.

3. Last, Franceschet and Colavizza distilled a set of emerging themes from a comparison of all viewpoints.

This process allowed for multiple voices to freely emerge and blend to create contributions on a common topic. The full position paper that evolved out of this process is available in the online supplemental materials. In this article, we first provide an introduction to crypto art and then summarize the main findings from the comparison of the viewpoints in the position paper….