The First-Ever CryptoPunks Book Features Every Last One of the Digital Artworks

The book features contributions from Hans Ulrich Obrist, Simon Denny, and Mat Dryhurst.

CryptoPunks: Free to Claim, forthcoming from Phaidon in November.

When Canadian blockchain enthusiasts Matt Hall and John Watkinson gave away 10,000 CryptoPunks, tiny digital artworks comprising pixelated faces that people could claim free of charge, they could have had no idea that the images would be part of a digital revolution, be used as profile pictures by the likes of Jay Z and Snoop Dogg, and command tremendous prices at auction. Minted on the Ethereum blockchain, each consists of a 24-by-24-pixel avatar whose individual traits (hairstyles, makeup, jewelry) and life-forms (ape, alien, zombie) are generated algorithmically. Since that fateful day in 2017, they have generated upwards of $2.3 billion in cumulative sales.

If you (like me) missed your chance to get a free Punk and watch its value and popularity go stratospheric, you can at least now own the book CryptoPunks: Free to Claim, which has illustrations of every last one, thus serving as a catalogue raisonné for the kind of project you would probably never expect to have one. (A special edition is available only to those who own CryptoPunks.) Forthcoming in November from publisher Phaidon, it is edited by Yuga Labs, the Web3 lifestyle and media company that purchased the Punks in 2022 (they also own the Bored Ape Yacht Club, another bellwether blockchain project) and Zak Kyes, a Swiss-American creative director who has worked with clients like Anne Imhof, Frank Ocean, the Museum of Modern Art, and Nike.

An artwork showing a heavily pixelated head of a Black person with a Mohawk haircut smoking a cigarette

CryptoPunk 110. Courtesy Yuga Labs.

Between its Barbie-worthy pink covers, the hefty volume features an interview between Hall and Watkinson and globe-trotting super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, director of London’s Serpentine Galleries. There’s a hearty roster of other contributors, including curators like the Guggenheim’s Noam Segal and Centre Pompidou’s Marcella Lista; artists such as Simon Denny and Mat Dryhurst; Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian; crypto venture capitalist Chris Lyons of a16z; and New Inc. director Salome Asega. It retails for $100 in the U.S., £79.95 in the U.K., and €89.95 in Europe.

It isn’t the first time the project has taken on corporeal form. In October, the group issued a physical edition of printed CryptoPunks, starting at $500, at an event hosted by artist Beeple along with CryptoPunks.

An artwork showing a heavily pixelated face of a white person wearing Goggles, part of the CryptoPunks NFT collection

CryptoPunk 305, courtesy Yuga Labs.

Besides their market blessing, CryptoPunks have also achieved institutional recognition. In 2022, the company donated CryptoPunk #305 to the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami; they’ve also made it into the holdings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou. 

The collectibles have made some dramatic appearances on the market. In 2021, a single alien punk soared from a $1.5 million opening bid to fetch $11.8 million at Sotheby’s, even as market watchers were sounding the death knell for the NFT market. That same year, CryptoPunk 9998 supposedly sold for an incredible half-billion dollars in crypto in what turned out to be a fake transaction. The following February, Sotheby’s announced that it would host a single-lot sale of 104 Punks from a collector known as 0x650d; but the seller decided at the last minute to HODL (Internet-speak for hold or even “hold on for dear life”) the goods.

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