18.07.2024 Digital

The Digital Ecosystem of Art - Cryptoart, Digital Art and the Museum System, 2021

by Serena Tabacchi

One should start by defining what digital art and cryptoart are and how these differ from each other. “Cryptoart” defines art which is encrypted and tied to the blockchain technology. The latter constitutes an immutable data repository, also known as “ledger”, that gets inserted into a virtual chain capable of preserving it. “Digital Art” is art that was created under digital form. Digital technologies may be deployed as part of the creative process or the exhibitive one. GIFs, JPEG files, 3D animations, 4D cinemas and video art are all examples of digital art.

Cryptoart’s popularity has increased in the past couple of years due to the ease of its distribution. Cryptocurrencies are used to purchase and sell this type of art due to both convenience and technological reasons, which have helped to support its circulation. Since 2018, cryptoart has given many artists the possibility to increase the value and appreciation of their creations, which formerly had rarely been collected and taken into consideration. On the one hand, thanks to cryptocurrencies and some platforms, digital art creators found a successful solution to register directly their works on the blockchain without the need of tying themselves to art galleries. On the other, they have also finally encountered an audience willing to buy and sell their creations.

Moreover, the blockchain technology also allows for the certification of the authenticity and source of art works. For instance, in the case of the emblematic piece by XCOPY entitled “Right click and Save As guy”, anyone can save and download a copy of the image. However, since the art piece has been registered on the blockchain and is thus associated with a unique code, also known as “HASH”, it is always possible to trace the art piece back to the creator and the current owner.

The expression “NFT” stands for “Non Fungible Token” and it refers to non-fungible and exchangeable tokens that are tied to a unique identifying code, which is in turn associated with a work of digital art. In contrast to NFTs, the popular cryptocurrency tokens are both fungible and exchangeable. A token consists of a set of digital data recorded on the blockchain, which entitle an individual to a specific right. For example, a token may be a cryptocurrency unit (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum).

The Italian museum MOCDA, also known as “Museum for Contemporary Digital Art” has been one of the first organizations to acknowledge and give value from a museum perspective to digital art. MOCDA’s focus is to educate individuals on the topic of digital art and to promote and distribute digital art at an international level. Alongside with its curatorial team, MOCDA also promotes cultural activities aimed at raising awareness on this theme and making Italian and international digital art known. Amongst these initiatives, one of the most prominent ones is to document and collect digital art from 1960 to present times, with a particular focus on Italian artists who have left a distinctive mark in this artistic movement and its evolution. The goal is to historicize the artistic movement of digital art, also including more recent cyptoart works, especially from 2018 onwards.



Serena Tabacchi is a young entrepreneur, curator and author. She has worked at TATE Modern and is cofounder and director of the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art (MOCDA). Currently, she is developing a format to curate digital art exhibitions both online and in person.