Cryptoart: the digital art revolution

20/09/2023 | Santander Universidades

On 11 March 2021 at Christie's, the iconic auction house, one of the most groundbreaking and astonishing auctions of recent years took place. Digital artist Beeple sold his digital artwork "First 5,000 Days" for almost 60 million euros. Since then, cryptoart and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have revolutionised the world hand-in-hand with blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

But what exactly is cryptoart? Are digital artworks really so valuable or is it just a passing fad? If you want to find out more about this new way of collecting art, in our article you can delve right into the revolutionary and exhilarating world of cryptoart. 

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What is cryptoart and NFTs?

Cryptoart is a new way to collect works of art. In general, cryptoart is defined as a static image made digitally, although any other type of digital file can be considered cryptoart: a video, a song, an ebook, or even a tweet. In fact, the first tweet ever sent was recently sold for 2.9 million dollars

The concept is born from the need to protect the authenticity of digital art and the ease of duplicating any digital file, as the value of a digital artwork resides in the same characteristics as a traditional artwork: its authenticity, exclusivity and ownership. 

To maintain these three aspects in digital art, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have emerged: digital assets representing an amount of money, which is stored in a blockchain, and that contain all the information relating to the digital artwork in a totally secure and transparent manner, so that it cannot be modified. 

With NFTs, digital artworks can be sold as unique items, because although it may be possible to duplicate the file, its origin and ownership can be traced through the blockchain. In this way, the identity of the original artist, the current owner, the original value, and transactions over time, among other factors, are stored. 


How does the technology behind cryptoart work?

Cryptoart is closely linked to cryptocurrencies. Cryptoart markets don't use euros or dollars, with purchases instead being made in virtual money, such as Ethereum (ETH) or Solana (SOL) in exchange for unique and authentic digital masterpieces. These are sold at auctions. 

However, none of this would be possible without blockchain, a distributed database commonly used to purchase and sell cryptocurrencies, which also has many other applications such as the so-called smart contracts, based on the legality offered by a traditional contract.

In this scenario, when a digital artist sells their work, a smart contract is created that links an NFT to the work in question, as well as to the cryptocurrency transaction and the parties involved. This digital contract is similarly stored inside the blockchain ecosystem, making it impossible for it to be fraudulently modified. On the contrary, it is very easy to check whether a work is authentic or not.

Notable NFT artists and collections in the cryptoart world

Trading volumes on peer-to-peer NFT marketplace OpenSea, the largest online cryptoart marketplace, increased by more than 12% in 2021. What we're seeing is that more and more people are looking to collect digital art, either to support the digital artists of their choice, or in the hope that the works will increase in value over time, as with traditional works of art. 

That's why there are likewise increasing numbers of artists turning to NFTs and selling their art through marketplaces such as OpenSea. Below, we outline the most popular collections of digital imagery:

  • Beeple: First 5,000 DaysMike Winnelman has been making one piece of digital art a day since 2007. With the boom in NFTs, he decided to tokenise his oeuvre of over 5,000 artworks to sell in a public auction. This digital art collection, sold for almost 70 million USD, is so far the most expensive cryptoart in history
  • CryptoPunkthis cryptoart collection contains over 10,000 different and unique characters created by Larva Labs in 2017, and is composed of 8-bit, punk-style designs that fascinate the whole world. In fact, CryptoPunk #7523, an alien with greenish skin and a medical face mask, sold for $11.8 million. 
  • Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTanother of the most popular cryptoart collections to date is that of “Bored Apes”. Designed by Yuga Labs, these digital monkey representations are winning over legions of collectible NFT fans. Recently, a batch of 101 Bored Apes achieved 24.39 million dollars.
  • Art Blocks: Art Blocks is a collection of digital 'degenerative art' that includes all manner of works by different artists, from flat images to interactive 3D compositions. In August 2021, the volume of transactions related to Art Blocks artworks reached $403 million. 

Cryptoart: the art of the future or a passing fad?

Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is an NFT and cryptoart enthusiast who confesses that “if they had been around in 1995, I would be going nuts. Now all I do is explore the possibilities of NFTs, blockchain and smart contracts...they are the future".

And it would seem that the NFT and cryptoart boom has only just begun. This is a new concept in avant-garde art that is currently expanding, and only time will tell if it continues its meteoric rise over the next few years, or remains a passing fad. 

One thing is clear, ever more people are interested in this world, and the new technologies, such as blockchain, Big Data or artificial intelligence, are defining the future of humanity. Hence, the challenge our society faces is to recycle or train professionals in the new skills that will help them to refocus their careers on this sector. 

With this aim in mind, and as part of this aim to boost employability and likewise help people to progress, overcome the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, and grow in an inclusive and sustainable way, Banco Santander is committed to three key concepts: lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling. To support this commitment, it has created the Santander Open Academy website, a unique and pioneering global programme. 

If you would like to keep growing personally and professionally, head over to the Santander Open Academy website, where you'll find 100s of opportunities to train together with internationally renowned institutions. Access training in technology, languages, research, investigation, soft skills, internships and female leadership, which will help you to improve your employability or refocus your career.


Do you want to become a lifelong learner and increase your job opportunities? The Santander Open Academy website has plenty of options to help you achieve your goals. Check out the website and remember: you can sign up for as many courses as you like. Make the most of this opportunity!

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