History of Crypto Art

A Chronological Review of Crypto Art, Blockchain-related Physical Art and Crypto Collectibles

Introduction

Ever since I started following the crypto space in 2017, I was fascinated by its pace. At increasing speed, blockchain technology seemed to reach for the traditional art world. With crypto art, I discovered a potential paradigm shift for digital art, which led me to co-author a position paper on crypto art.

Curious about its roots, I started collecting blog posts, articles and press releases on the subject. In a nutshell, the history of crypto art lies in trading card games on the CounterParty blockchain and intertwines with blockchain-related physical art and early crypto collectibles.

Initially intended as a blog post, this overview grew fast, so I decided to curate a list of relevant milestones instead. It includes milestones in the history of crypto art, crypto art galleries, physical blockchain-related artworks and events, blockchain technology in the traditional art world and first digital collectibles.

The following selection is a work-in-progress, subjective and vast yet doomed to be incomplete. Please drop me a note of any relevant milestones I missed; I would appreciate it.

Highlights in the History of Crypto Art

It seems commonly agreed, that the first tokenized crypto art was issued on the Counterparty blockchain. However, opinions differ whether Rob Myers' tokenized MYSOUL on November 11th, 2014, the FDCARD created by game studio EverdreamSoft on March 11th, 2015 or Rare Pepe created by Mike on September 9th, 2016, is considered the first crypto artwork. » See MYSOUL /  » See FDCArd in the timeline / » See Rare Pepe in the timeline

2011

Casascius coins by Mike Caldwell

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

2012

Yoni Assia proposes Colored Coins

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.

2013

Bitcoin Roller Coaster by Brainless Tales

April 13th, 2013 - Bitcoin Roller Coaster by Brainless Tales
Brainless Tales posts his iconic comic to Reddit. Subsequently, it will be continuously modified and made into memes by fans.

Cryptographics by Stef Lewandowski and Elizabeth Barile-Page

July 28th, 2013 - Launch of Cryptographics
This cryptocurrency-inspired project by Stef Lewandowski and Liz Barile-Page visually encrypts secret messages as artworks, project ended.

Untitled Mining Installation by Peter Froelich

August 21st, 2013 - Untitled Mining Installation by Peter Frölich
German artist Peter Frölich creates a conceptual artwork which consists of a working Bitcoin mining rig within a traditional antique gold painting frame.

2014

Group Exhibition - Computers and Capital - The Rise of Digital Currency

February 15th, 2014 - Group Exhibition: Computers and Capital: The Rise of Digital Currency
Bitcoin-themed group exhibition curated by Erik H Rzepka and Wesley Yuen for Coinfest 2014 in Vancouver, BC.

Free Lunch by Dave Young Kim

March 6th, 2014 - Dave Young Kim creates Free Lunch
Dave Young Kim paints Dorian Nakamoto as he attempts to evade the media after being identified by Newsweek.

Bitcoin Art Fair at Mission 20 San Francisco

March 6th, 2014 - Bitcoin Art Fair & Meetup at 20Mission
This group exhibition takes place during San Francisco's Bitcoin meetup, reportedly at that time the largest in the world.

Cryptograffiti Street Art promotes Bitcoin with Guerrilla Marketing

March 13th, 2014 - Cryptograffiti's Street Art promotes Bitcoin with Guerrilla Marketing
The intricate pieces includes destructed credit cards, modified bank logos, Bitcoin ads and are attached to bank buildings and ATMs.

Monegraph Launches

March 15th, 2014 - Official Launch of Monegraph
Monegraph is a platform which allows people to certify images on the web, then tweets out public proof.

Proof of Work Group Exhibition at the Sub in San Francisco

April 24th, 2014 - Group Exhibition: Proof of Work
Willa Köerner and Jenny Sharaf curate Proof Of Work: a human approach to the convergence of art and technology at The Sub, San Francisco, CA.

Nakamoto - The Proof by Emilie Brout and Maxime Marion

May 28th, 2014 - Nakamoto (The Proof) by Émilie Brout and Maxime Marion
The French artists use the dark-net and Bitcoin to acquire a scanned copy of Satoshi Nakamoto's passport.

Tatiana Moroz launches TatianaCoin on the CounterParty blockchain

June 3rd, 2014 - Tatiana Moroz launches TatianaCoin
Singer and activist Tatiana Moroz issues a personal token based on the CounterParty blockchain to fund her third studio album.

Last Crypto Supper by Youl

July 21st, 2014 - Youl creates Last (Bitcoin) Supper
French artist Youl created a commissioned artwork for the Bitcoin project, which sold on ebay for nearly $3,000.

Rob Myer - This Contract Is Art

July 22nd, 2014 - Rob Myers creates This Contract is Art
In this conceptual artwork, the smart contract can be set to nominate itself as art or not with a click of a mouse and the payment of the gas fee.

Rob Myer Ethereum Art Market

July 24th, 2014 - Rob Myers launches Ethereum Art Market
On his website, Rob Myers presents the first Ethereum art market smart contract through which digital artworks can be registered and sold.

Billy Mabrey Bearwhale

October 7th, 2014 - Billy Mabrey creates BearWhale
Texas-based Billy Mabrey created this painting in Shapeshift's an open call for art depicting the trading chart and the first BearWhale.

Christoph Steininger creates The Slaying of BearWhale

November 3rd, 2014 - Christopher Steininger creates The Slaying of BearWhale
Commemorating the of 30,000 BTC ($9m) sale within 6 hours at a low market price, Christopher Steininger's painting depicts this historic moment.

Mat Habel creates The Slaying of BearWhale

November 3rd, 2014 - Matt Habel creates The Slaying of BearWhale
Habel and Steininger (entry above) win 5 BTC in ShapeShift's competition for the BearWhale commemoration.

The Darknet - From Memes to Onionland - An Exploration

October 18th, 2014 - Group Exhibition: The Darknet - From Memes to Onionland. An Exploration
Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen showcases an interdisciplinary exhibition examining themes such as copyright, privacy, illegality and resistance.

Rob Myer tokenized MYSOUL

November 21st, 2014 - MYSOUL - A Tokenized Artwork by Rob Myers
Artist Rob Myers tokenized conceptually his soul as a MYSOUL token on the Dogecoin and CounterParty blockchain.

2015

Sarah Meyohas Bitchcoin

February 15th, 2015 - Sarah Meyohas launches BitchCoin
BitchCoin is an artwork-backed currency by Sarah Meyohas in an effort to challenge the current economics of the art world.

First Issued FDCard by EverdreamSoft game studio

March 11th, 2015 - First issued FDCARD
Digital trading card issued on the CounterParty blockchain by the EverdreamSoft game studio, these cards became later Spells of Genesis.

Launch of Scarab Tokens

March 16th, 2015 - Official Launch of Scarab Experiment
Scarab is simultaneously an artist collective and a work of art itself based on the CounterParty blockchain.

Coin Artist Bitcoin Puzzle

April 9th, 2015 - Coin Artist releases Bitcoin Puzzle Painting
Coin Artist Marguerite Christin released her puzzle painting and raised attention for the 4.87 Bitcoin reward and the 3 years it takes to solve.

MAK Vienna buys van den Dorpels Screensaver with Bitcoin

April 24th, 2015 - MAK Vienna becomes first art museum to buy digital artwork with Bitcoin
Austrian Museum of Applied Arts became the first museum to buy a digital artwork using Bitcoin from Dutch artist Harm van den Dorpel.

Verisart Launch

July 7th, 2015 - Official Launch of Verisart
Los Angeles-based Verisart is a platform to create digital certificates for art and collectibles backed by the blockchain.

Primavera De Filippi Plantoid

July 17th, 2015 - Primavera De Filippi creates the first spore of her Plantoid
The first spore of the autonomous blockchain-based lifeform is created during a workshop at the Stadtwerkstatt in Linz, Austria.

Cryptograffiti Auctions Dorian Nakamoto

November 12th, 2015 - Cryptograffiti raises 17.3 Bitcoin for Dorian Nakamoto
Created in 2014, this collage of destructed credit cards raises $5.5k in Nov 2015 (May 2020 $150k) in the benefit of Dorian Nakamoto.

Mediengruppe Bitnik Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo - Random Darknet Shopper

December 11th, 2015 - Random Darknet Shopper by !Mediengruppe Bitnik
The artists showcase their shopping bot which uses Bitcoin to buy random items in the darknet at Horatio Junior Gallery in London.

2016

HODL sculpture by cryptograffiti

February 10th, 2016 - HODL by Cryptograffiti
Cryptograffiti created his HODL prints and sculptures in the style of pop art artist Robert Indiana. F1016

Furtherfield Showcase Art and the Blockchain

March 28th, 2016 - Group Exhibition: Furtherfield Showcase: Art and the Blockchain
Ruth Catlow curated Furtherfield Showcase which was exhibited at the Digital Catapult in London.

Proof of Art Bitcoin Art exhibition in San Francisco

May 25th, 2016 - Group Exhibition: Proof Of Art - The Bitcoin Art Show
A blockchain-themed group exhibition hosted by cryptograffiti and the San Francisco Bitcoin Meetup at Code & Canvas.

First Rare Pepe card by Mike

September 9th, 2016 - First Rare Pepes
Release of the first User-/Artist-issued trading cards based on the CounterParty blockchain, arguably the first issuance of crypto art.

Cryptograffiti Solo Exhibition The Revolution Will Not Be Centralized

November 4th, 2016 - Solo Exhibition: The Revolution Will Not Be Centralized by Cryptograffiti
Cryptograffiti showcases his Bitcoin-themed solo exhibition at the Digital Garage in San Francisco, CA. N0416

2017

Spells of Genesis launch

April 20th, 2017 - Official launch of Spells of Genesis
A digital card game based on the CounterParty blockchain by the EverdreamSoft game studio.

New World Order Group Exhibition

May 20th, 2017 - Group Exhibition: New World Order at Furtherfield
Traveling blockchain-themed group exhibition as part of the European collaboration project State Machines at Furtherfield, London.

CryptoPunks by Larva Labs

June 22nd, 2017 - Official launch of Crypto Punks
Digital collectible tokens issued on the Ethereum blockchain by Larva Labs

Publication of Artists ReThinking the Blockchain

September, 2017 - Publication of Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain
Edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett, Nathan Jones and Sam Skinner, this book features many blockchain art pioneers.

CryptoKitties Launch

October 19th, 2017 - Official launch of CryptoKitties
Digital collectible tokens issued on the Ethereum blockchain by Dapper Labs

Clickmine by Sarah Friend

November 9th, 2017 - Sarah Friend showcases Clickmine at the NEoN Digital Arts Festival 
Winner of Furtherfield's blockchain art commission, Clickmine is a hyperinflationary ERC-20 token that is minted by a clicking game.

Open Codes Group Exhibition at ZKM Karlsruhe

October 20th, 2017 - Exhibition: Open Codes - The World as a Field of Data
Technology-themed group exhibition featuring blockchain-related art and digital collectibles at the ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany.

DaDa Living Art Launch

October 31st, 2017 - Official launch of DADA
An Ethereum-based art platform and marketplace. What makes Dada special is all artworks are created on the platform.

Official Launch of OpenSea

December 28th, 2017 - Official Launch of OpenSea
OpenSea launches its Alpha of the first decentralized exchange and marketplace for digital collectibles.

2018

New World Order Group Exhibition

January 10th, 2017 - Group Exhibition: New World Order at Aksioma
Traveling blockchain-themed group exhibition as part of the European collaboration project State Machines at Aksioma, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Auction of Homer Pepe card

January 13th, 2018 - Rare Art Festival and Auction of Rare Pepe
The sale of a Homer Pepe card at the emblematic Rare Digital Art Festival in New York City for the equivalent of $38,500 goes viral.

New World Order Group Exhibition

February 10th, 2017 - Group Exhibition: New World Order at Drugo More
Traveling blockchain-themed group exhibition as part of the European collaboration project State Machines at Gallery Filodrammatica in Rijeka, Croatia.

Kevin Abosch sells Forever Rose for 1 million USD

February 14th, 2018 - Kevin Abosch sells his crypto artwork Forever Rose for US$ 1 million
In celebration of Valentine's Day, Kevin Abosch created this fractionalized artwork with the gifting protocol GIFTO.io

Official Launch of Jonas Lund Token

March 21th, 2018 - Jonas Lund launches the Jonas Lund Token
Token holders/shareholders participate in decisions on Jonas Lund's artistic practice and life. M2118

New Money exhibition by Andy Bauch

March 23rd, 2018 - Solo Exhibition: New Money by Andy Bauch
Andy Bauch explores in his solo exhibition the value of art and money with lego-based paintings and bitcoin reward puzzles.

KnownOrigin.io Launch

April 5th, 2018 - Official launch of KnownOrigin.io
Platform for digital original and editioned artwork registered on the Ethereum blockchain by Manchester-based BlockRocket.

SuperRare Launch

April 2nd, 2018 - Official launch of SuperRare.co
Platform for digital original artwork registered on the Ethereum blockchain by Brooklyn-based Pixura.

Solo Exhibition - Simon Denny -Games of Decentralized Life

April 14th, 2018 - Solo Exhibition: Games of Decentralized Life by Simon Denny
Simon explores concepts of centralization decentralization through installations and modified board games at Galerie Buchholz in Cologne, Germany.

Launch of Digirare

April 16th, 2018 - Official Launch of Digirare
Digirare is a marketplace for crypto art and collectibles on the Bitcoin/CounterParty Blockchain.

Kevin Abosch Yellow Lambo

May 6th, 2018 - Sale of Yellow Lambo
Kevin Abosch latest conceptual artwork is made up of 42 neon letters and numbers which represent a cryptocurrency contract.

Launch of CryptoVoxels Metaverse

May 21st, 2018 - Launch of CryptoVoxels Metaverse
New Zealand-based, this virtual reality world became one of the primary exhibition spaces crypto art and digital collectibles.

Art Basel - Blockchain and the Art World

June 14th, 2018 - Art Basel Panel: Blockchain and the Art World
Artists, curators and visionaries come together to discuss the potential impact of blockchain on art.

Maecenas auctions fractional Andy Warhol

June 20th, 2018 - Maecenas auctions fractional ownership of Andy Warhol artwork
Maecenas auctions Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs at UK-based Dadiani Fine Art gallery.

RARE Art Labs Launh

June 26th, 2018 - Official launch of R.A.R.E
Platform for digital original artwork registered on the Ethereum blockchain by Rare Art Labs based in Richmond, VA.

Christies Art and Tech Summit Exploring Blockchain

July 18th, 2018 - Art+Tech Summit: Exploring Blockchain
Auction house Christie’s hosted it's first one-day art+tech conference entitled: Exploring Blockchain — Is the Art World Ready For Consensus?

Terra0 launches Flower Tokens

July 20th, 2018 - Terra0 launches Flower Tokens
Experimental project attempts at creating a combined crypto-collectible physical asset, it is archived in November. J2018

Codex Protocol launches on Mainnet

July 23rd, 2018 - Official Launch of Codex Protocol on Mainnet
After a controversial Initial Coin Offering, Codex protocol launches as a provenance registry for art and collectibles.

CryptoArte Launch

August 15th, 2018 - CryptoArte Launch
CryptoArte creates generative tokens and paintings based on the hash values of Ethereum transaction blocks.

Anna Riedler presents Mosaic Virus

September 17th, 2018 - Anna Ridler presents AI-based Mosaic Virus
UK artist Anna Riedler was commissioned to create a Bitcoin price visualization based on her AI-generated tulip images.

Proof of Work group exhibition curated by Simon Denny

September 18th, 2018 - Group Exhibition: Proof of Work
International blockchain-related group exhibition curated Simon Denny by at the Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin, Germany.

Group Exhibition Bitcoin Art r-evolution

September 28th, 2018 - Group Exhibition: Bitcoin Art (r)evolution
On the occasion of Bitcoin's 10th anniversary, this international group exhibition showcased physical blockchain- and bitcoin-related art.

NYC ArtTech an Blockchain with the Rarest Book Launch

October 24th, 2018 - NYC ArtTech + Blockchain with the Rarest Book Launch
New Art Academy hosted the NYC ArtTech + Blockchain Connect Kimmel at the Center for University Life during, also launch of the Rare Pepe book.

Eva Sussman's 89 Seconds Atomized launches

November 7th, 2018 - Snark.art launches with Eva Sussman’s 89 seconds Atomized
89 Seconds Atomized is not only an art installation but also an experiment in digital ownership and community.

Intersections Printemps Numerique Montreal QC

November 11th, 2018 - Panel Discussion: Intersections Vol. 9 Printemps Numérique
Montreal's blockchain panel discussion with Crypto Art and Blockchain Experience zone at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Christies and Artory Record First Fine Art Auction on the Blockchain

November 11th, 2018 - Christie's and Artory Record First Fine Art Auction on Blockchain
Christie's documented and recorded the $323.1 million in sales of its Ebsworth auction with Artory on the Blockchain.

Group Exhibition PERFECT & PRICELESS

November 16th, 2018 - Group Exhibition { PERFECT & PRICELESS } - Value Systems on the Blockchain
Blockchain-themed exhibition curated by Georg Bak at the Kate Vass Gallery in Zurich, Switzerland.

Blockchain Aesthetics at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield England

December 10th, 2018 - Group Exhibition: Blockchain Aesthetics
Blockchain-themed exhibition curated by Julian Stadon at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, England.

Decentralizing Art- The Hype and Hope of Blockchain

December 10th, 2018 - Discussion Panel: Decentralizing Art
Blockstack hosted a panel entitled Decentralizing Art: The Hype and Hope of Blockchain at Foley Gallery on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Hackatao Fight Fear

December 15th, 2018 - Solo Exhibition: Fight Fear by Hackatao
Italian artist duo Hackatao showcases in their show crypto art and a selection of international crypto artists.

Cryptograffiti auctions off Black Swan as least expensive painting in the history of crypto art

December 19th, 2018 - Cryptograffiti breaks record with Black Swan for least expensive painting
Black Swan by Cryptograffiti becomes the least expensive painting ever sold for 1 millisatoshi or $0.000000037 at the time of auction.

Launch of MoCA Museum of Crypto Art launches

December 22nd, 2018 - MoCA Museum of Crypto Art launches in CryptoVoxels
Paris-based artist Bnoiit.C starts creating the first virtual museum to commemorate the crypto art movement. D2218

2019

La liberte guidant le peuple 2019 by Pascal Boyart

January 6th, 2019 - Pascal Boyart completes La Liberté guidant le peuple 2019 mural puzzle
Politically charged during the Yellow Vests protest, this Bitcoin puzzle mural will be removed.

Buttchain by Red Paper Heart

February 1st, 2019 - Buttchain by Red Paper Heart
Brooklyn experiential specialists Red Paper Heart created Buttchain to demystify blockchain tech and how it will eventually infiltrate your everyday life.

Blockchain Art Exchange Launch

February 12th, 2019 - Official launch of Blockchain Art Exchange
London-based digital art platform on the Ethereum blockchain by art curator Sascha Bailey

Autoglyphs by Larva Labs

April 8th, 2019 - Official launch of Autoglyphs
Generative artwork tokens issued on the Ethereum blockchain by Larva Labs in support of charitable causes.

Launch of Editional App

April 8th, 2019 - Official launch of Editional
Ethereum-powered mobile application to create digital collectibles, after 100,000 editions it ceases operations in October the same year.

Makersplace Launch

April 24th, 2019 - Official launch of Makersplace
Platform for digital original artwork and limited editions, registered on the Ethereum blockchain based in San-Francisco, CA.

Rare Art Festival 2 in Brooklyn

May 18th, 2019 - Rare Art Festival 2
The crypto art and collectibles scenes came together for the second edition of the RareAF in Brooklyn, NY.

Noow Art launches in Switzerland

May 27th, 2019 - Official launch of Noow.art
Digital art platform spun off from Swisscom offers tokenized art and digital art-streaming in Switzerland.

IDAF International Digital Art Festival in Manchester

June 26th, 2019 - IDAF International Digital Art Festival
Digital and crypto art festival hosted by KnownOrigin in Manchester, England.

Tropopause Contemplation solo exhibition Martin Lukas Ostachowski

September 6th, 2019 - Solo Exhibition: Tropopause Contemplation by Martin Lukas Ostachowski
The blockchain-centred exhibition is held at the Centre Culturel et Communautaire Françoise-Dunn in Sherbrooke, QC, Canada.

Mintbase Launch

August 1st, 2019 - Official launch of Mintbase
Ethereum-based tokenization platform for digital art, collectibles and other use cases such as tickets, located in Berlin, Germany. A119

Rarible Launch

October 24th, 2019 - Official launch of Rarible
Ethereum-based tokenization platform for digital art and collectibles, the decentralized team is based in Moscow, LA and NY. O2419

Crypto Art Show group exhibition

November 9th, 2019 - Group Exhibition: Crypto Art Show
Crypto art group exhibition organized by crypto artist Max Osiris at the Innerspace Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

Crypto Art - A New Medium Group Exhibition Shanghai China

November 15th, 2019 - Group Exhibition: CryptoArts: A New Medium
Crypto art group exhibition organized by Jake Johns at the Zhu Bing Ren Copper Gallery In Shanghai.

MOCDA at Uniqlo Tate Late

November 29th, 2019 - Uniqlo Tate Late
MOCDA hosts blockchain-related artworks, projects and panel discussions during the Nam Jun Paik exhibition at the Tate Modern.

2020

Cryptoqué? Group Exhibition in Madrid

February 8th, 2020 - Group Exhibition: Cryptoqué? 
An international crypto art group exhibition hosted at the MadeMotion space in Madrid, Spain.

Nifties platform launches

February 14th, 2020 - Official launch Nifties.com
Nifties promotes crypto art, games and collectibles as well as virtual reality projects.

Async Art Launch

February 25th, 2020 - Official launch of Async Art
An experimental art platform for programmable digital art based on the Ethereum blockchain and located in San-Francisco, CA.

Nifty Gateway Launch

March 17th, 2020 - Official launch of Nifty Gateway
USD transaction-focused art platform based on the Ethereum blockchain. Nifty Gateway was acquired by the Winklevoss twins of Gemini.

PixEOS Art Gallery Launch

April 7th, 2020 - Official launch of pixEOS Art Gallery
Public launch of the pixEOS Art Gallery based on the Eos blockchain focused on digital goods such as digital and physical artworks.

Virtual Rare Art Festival RARE3F

May 14th, 2020 - Virtual Rare Art Festival RARE3F
The third edition of the iconic crypto art and collectibles festival that launched a movement.

More About Crypto Art

What is Blockchain?

How to Collect Crypto Art?

Where to Collect Crypto Art?

Did I Miss a Milestone?

Please drop me a note of any relevant milestones I missed; I would appreciate it. Please add a date and reference link such as a blog post, article, etc. which documents the milestone date and gives more information.

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Footnotes

F1016 - Date confirmed with Cryptograffiti via Telegram April 22nd, 2020

N0416 - Date confirmed with Cryptograffiti via Telegram May 5th, 2020

M2118 - Date confirmed with Jonas Lund via Instagram May 6th, 2020.

J2018 - Related Medium post about project's end

D2218 - Date confirmed with MoCA founder Benoit via Twitter on June 12, 2020

A119 - Date confirmed with Mintbase-Cofounder Carolin Wend via Twitter April 15th, 2020

O2419 - Date confirmed with Rarible-Cofounder Ilya Komolkin via Telegram April 16th, 2020