The EVOLUTION of Art in the NFT Digital Era

Ivan Li
8 min readOct 9, 2021
Cryptopunks in Times Square. (image/ @sergitosergito)

Hi there, this is Ivan speaking!

The year 2021 is an important milestone in the development of NFT (Non-Fungible Token) artworks. New and avant-garde art forms have gradually dominated with new genres of creation springing up in the market, which undoubtedly poses a great impact on traditional art.

In recent years, decentralized art trading platforms have emerged in Europe and the United States. Due to the rapid progress, multiple options, and smart security, art exchanges that used to be circumscribed by location are now available online. It breaks through the border barrier and opens a new page in art promotion. The convenience of blockchain transactions, a new definition of the concept of digital assets, with its “indivisible”, “irreplaceable”, and “non-interchangeable” characteristics have given NFT artworks a traditional sense of scarcity and uniqueness. The wide range of art forms not only provides new channels for the promotion of new media art, but also brings more diversified ways to the traditional trading model, resulting in increased application of blockchain to the process of art creation, display, and trading. Moreover, technology grows with the generations, and young generations are highly receptive to those evolution of electronic products. Under the influence of empathy, NFT’s art forms will easily be close to the living circle. A large number of displays using interactive aesthetics and immersive experiences, all of which convey avant-garde meaningful ideas and culture.

Tanaka Atsuko, Electric Dress, 1956. Photographic documentation of performance at Takamatsu City Museum of Art and Grey Art Gallery.

There’s been so much progress in medicine and science, with people even talking about flying to Mars, and I just want to create art that can coexist with these times.” the Japanese artist Atsuko Tanaka expressed. The boom in crypto-art at this time has given creators, who are constrained and striving for breakthroughs, a new direction to showcase and create. The term “NFT” is also providing a new definition for the traditional art field.

With the development of NFT, art forms have evolved like a metamorphosis, breaking away from the logical framework of art history. The exploration of forms of expression has ceased to be the focus of attention, and the impact on the environment, people, and society have become deeply introspective. In addition, the perspective and thinking regarding viewing and collecting have changed, and the art cognition has become broader. The change under the contemporary nature has a strong meaning, and it is very likely to create a historical moment at the node of this generation.

NFT and Generative Art

Generative art, a form of contemporary art making, refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. In the early 1950s, the artist Herbert W. Franke (Austrian, B.1927) experimented with computer-automation to produce random combinations of light, shadow, and movement in his works. With the spread of computers in the 1960s, many artists with expertise in computer science began to experiment with generative art. The new programming language allowed artists to combine technology and art in a more diverse way. With the use of algorithms, computerized auto-generation has also emerged as a means of artistic creation. With the boom of blockchain in the last decade, the emergence of NFT has facilitated the realization of the scarcity of digital forms and the promotion of more diverse and highly interactive art. The CryptoPunks series, released by Larva Labs in 2017, is not only one of the classics of NFT-generated art creation, but also one of the first “non-fungible token” project to be launched on the blockchain, opening up a new era of NFT art development to come.

CryptoPunks NFTs sell at Christie’s for $16.9 million, a collection of nine portraits from Larva Labs created in 2017.

The emergence of NFT art in the post-pandemic era

The Covid-19 pandemic and the issue of “deglobalization” have shattered the global economic landscape and led to breakthroughs or transformations in many industries. As a result, the lifestyles of most people have been radically changed, and the demand for “digitalization” has increased. Under such a structural change, NFT has drawn a lot of attention as it accelerates the experimentation and transformation possibilities of the arts and culture industry in terms of technology applications. NFT provides the verification of “digital identity” for physical art creation, and all forms of creation can be NFT-ized, thereby allowing for diversity. Moreover, due to the tamper-evident nature of blockchain, data becomes a unique and permanent “digital asset” after the process of smart contract coding and minting. This not only eliminates the ambiguity of “ownership” on network usage, but also provides a substantial solution to the commercial restrictions encountered in the past when exploring “online exhibition”. Online publications, digital albums, digital marketing, and digital collections can all be given value, while maintaining the exceptional nature of physical art assets. The integration of technology and art also offers multiple directions and inspiration for the development of the art industry. For digital creators, the difficulty in distinguishing between originality and reproduction in media art has been safeguarded, encouraging many creators to devote themselves to NFT art creation and providing opportunities to record and publish large-scale works that were not easily displayed in the past. The artist Cai Guo-Qiang, famous for his “gunpowder art”, will produce an NFT of the key process of creation, “Detonation of the Moment”, a part of his work “The Eternity of the Moment” commissioned by the RockBund Art Museum, to be released in July 2021. Now, in the post-pandemic era, the development of blockchain will blur the boundary between the real and the virtual. One can see that people’s living patterns will begin to change, and the development of encrypted art will open up a wide range of possibilities for contemporary art.

Cai Guo-Qiang has created his first Non-Fungible Token (NFT) project, Transient Eternity — 101 Ignitions of Gunpowder Paintings. (image / Museo Nacional del Prado, Spain)

The Physical Art Salon Evolves into a Digital Community

Molière Reading His Comedy Of Tartuffe At Ninon De Lenclos. ( This painting created by Nicolas-André Monsiau. )

The rapid spread of NFT art in the online world is closely related to the development of the “sense of community”. A community is an organization formed by gathering people with common values and hobbies. Whether online or offline, the community model instills a sense of belonging and identity into those in a particular place. This kind of communicative gathering with a specific community can be traced back to the “salon culture” of the Renaissance. The word “salon” is derived from the Italian word “salone”, which means “hospitality room”. It was later used to describe a room-based literary and artistic gathering, a center of social culture and social life, created by aristocratic gentry and other dignitaries, which contributed to the flourishing of art criticism. Due to the isolation of life under the epidemic, people are spending more time than ever before communicating and disseminating information through online media with a variety of salon-like communities popular online. Moreover, NFT art items with fun features such as “anthropomorphic” and “head stickers” are widely used with social software and are receiving a lot of attention and discussion. Owners of the similar NFT items gather together due to the infectious attraction of those items. This, coupled with the use of an online platform, which allows for the promotion of art exhibitions and knowledge exchange despite the venue, attracts many art creators to join. The value of “crypto art” is being redefined as the interaction between artists across genres and disciplines increases and humanistic thinking evolves. The Bored Ape Yacht Club, launched by the Yuga Labs team in 2021, is an example of the rapid spread of the community activism. The concept of “club” is inspired by the “ape” anthropomorphic symbol, which not only allows for exclusive interaction with many communities, but also provides a symbol of identity while owning its NFT. In the field of crypto-art, the network of relationships has become an indicator to explore the concept of art, unlike the traditional concept that focuses only on the artwork itself. Whether the creators and their works resonate within the community, the transmission of ideas becomes more important, which is the key factor for the flourishing of NFTs in the community.

Set of “Bored Ape Yacht Club” NFTs sells for $24.4 mln in Sotheby’s online auction (Created by Yuga Labs, 2021)

Virtual World Extends to Reality

With the increasing use of decentralization, the advent of the 5G generation and the development of immersive experience technology, what can happen to people and things in cyberspace is becoming more and more diverse. The “Metaverse” can augment reality through blockchain technology. Combined with the use of the Internet, people can have a virtual identity and build a complete life circle in the virtual world. Social and trading behaviors become as easy and simple as real life, except that they take place in a virtual parallel universe. The introduction of virtual reality brings infinite possibilities. Krista Kim, a Canadian artist, created the world’s first NFT virtual house, “Mars House”. Kim’s work was inspired by what happened during the epidemic’s quarantine. In a meditative setting, the design uses light and shadow in a Zen-like atmosphere, and incorporates relaxing music by renowned guitarist Jeff Schroeder, in an attempt to create an immersive experience for the viewer via visual and auditory senses. Collectors can upload “Mars House” to the virtual reality world of “Metaverse” to experience life in “Mars House”. By utilizing blockchain technology and combining Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Augmented Reality (AR) operations, the multifaceted online exhibition can fill the gap between virtual space and physical experience, and avoid relegating it to a mere browsing page for information. In addition to the function of recording and reproduction, the audience is no longer limited to a single location and can communicate globally through online exhibitions in different languages, gradually crossing the barrier of traditional values.

Krista Kim’s Mars House (2020) is “the First NFT Digital House” to be sold over 500k.

In response to the trend of global art appreciation and collection, and to shorten the distance between NFT art and the public psyche, the “Evolution” project is launched. Through a cross-disciplinary alliance between blockchain experts and art celebrities, the project aims to recommend various creations that are currently leading the trend of NFT art. The project is an online and offline tandem that brings to the public space full of advanced taste and fashionable features. Through NFT’s extensive artistic creations, people’s expectations and values of lifestyle in the new era will be explored.

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Ivan Li

Cofounder & Managing Partner of Red Building Capital, leading Blockchain VC in Taiwan