The Art Angle: How the CryptoPunk OGs Lit the Fuse for the NFT Boom

The Art Angle held a roundtable discussion with three early collectors of CryptoPunks, known within the community simply as OGs. 

Three OG Cryptopunk collectors join the Art Angle this week.
Three OG Cryptopunk collectors join the Art Angle this week.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

 

 

In 2017, Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson debuted what would become a landmark project in the early crypto art movement: the CryptoPunks. Released through their company Larva Labs, the CryptoPunks consisted of 10,000 unique collectible characters whose chain of title would be tracked on the Ethereum blockchain. Each punk is a 24 by 24-pixel avatar whose individual traits are generated algorithmically.

From Mohawks to shaved heads, eye patches to colored eyeshadow, and humans to apes, zombies, and aliens, every punk is one of a kind, but all would look perfectly at home intimidating a businessman in a classic eight-bit Nintendo game. Larva Labs released all 10,000 punks for free to any Ethereum user willing to claim them back in 2017. In the years since, the punks’ popularity has exploded—and so has their value on the secondary market.

In June 2021, a single alien punk sold at Sotheby’s for $11.75 million. Two months later, Visa paid $150,000 to acquire a CryptoPunk for its corporate collection. Meanwhile, the Hollywood agency UTA recently inked a deal to represent the CryptoPunks in mainstream content deals, while Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian hit the Met Gala wearing a badge depicting a CryptoPunk he bought for his wife, tennis superstar Serena Williams, because he thought it resembled her.

Beyond the headlines, however, the CryptoPunks have brought together a tight-knit global community who see the project and the wider crypto art space as much more than an opportunity for record-setting sales and red-carpet moments.

As part of art Artnet’s effort to bridge the gap between the crypto community and the world of fine art, Artnet’s Director of NFTs, Jiayin Chen, recently held a roundtable discussion with three early collectors of CryptoPunks, known within the community simply as OGs. They are: B, one of the only known women among the original CryptoPunk claimants; Claire Silver, who is now a renowned crypto artist in her own right; and Mr. 703, who originally claimed more than 700 CryptoPunks and currently ranks as the fifth-largest collector of the series worldwide. (They prefer not to use their real names.)

Jiayin connected with the trio over Zoom a few days before the third annual NFT NYC conference kicked off in Times Square for a conversation about the crypto community, individual punks, and how their lives have changed (or not) since the rest of the world caught on to the NFT craze.

 

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