What Is Art Blocks? The Generative Art NFT Platform Explained
The Shrimpy Team
Sep 17, 2021
Art Blocks is an Ethereum-based platform providing unique, programmable, and on-demand generative NFT art to collectors worldwide. It does so using NFT drops, a process by which a user mints an NFT but doesn’t know what they’re receiving beforehand.
It’s a safe bet that some of these terms are confusing if you’re an NFT beginner. Not to worry, concepts and categories like NFT drops and generative art are new for everyone.
So let’s back up a moment and start from the top by explaining what Art Blocks is, how the generative art platform works, and how to get the latest NFT drop.
What is the Art Blocks NFT platform?
Before getting into Art Blocks, you should have a firm grasp of what NFTs are. Short for Non-Fungible Tokens, NFTs are unique digital collectibles issued by and living on blockchains like Ethereum. For a more in-depth explanation, read our beginner’s guide to NFTs.
In the history of NFTs, randomly generated attributes have been enormous. Look at CryptoPunks, for example. Of the 10,000 CryptoPunks in existence, every single one has unique attributes. To create uniqueness for each CryptoPunk NFT, creators Larva Labs built a generative algorithmic engine that randomly assigned each punk its attributes.
Despite being a historic NFT project, CryptoPunks fell short in one way. Each punk was generated and minted ahead of time, leaving collectors the simple task of merely claiming them. In that sense, the Ethereum blockchain simply served to record and store the punks but wasn’t involved in the creative process.
Snowfro, an early CryptoPunks NFT collector, wondered whether blockchains might one day help create art. What’s more, he envisioned a future in which an artist’s entire creative process happened on-chain.
A few short years after the original CryptoPunks drop, Snowfro sold a part of his collection to fund the creation of the Art Blocks NFT platform. Art Blocks’ sole focus is generative art, a.k.a., art created by a computer script programmed by the artist.
But Art Blocks doesn’t just showcase and sell generative art; it hosts the artist’s generative script itself, then allows collectors to interact with the script so they receive a unique output. The output is the artwork itself, full of randomized variables making it distinct from all other outputs by the same script.
In a nutshell, when a collector mints an artwork on Art Blocks, they’re creating a token on the Ethereum blockchain. That token is unique (since it’s an NFT) and contains a seed. The seed then determines the artistic output of the script by allocating variables like color, geometry, and other rarity features.
So Art Blocks is a bit like having the artist create a custom on-demand artwork for you with the assistance of the blockchain to randomize outputs. Is it successful? The answer is a resounding yes.
In August 2021 alone, Art Blocks did well over $600,000,000 in NFT sales volume, outpacing all other NFT platforms combined. On secondary markets, Art Blocks projects like Tyler Hobbs’Fidenza series are fetching well into the millions of dollars per NFT.
Clearly, the Art Blocks model is working, but what is that model exactly? The way Art Blocks works is it has three tiers for NFT projects. Let’s dive into each level to explain what Art Blocks offers.
Art Blocks Curated NFTs
Art Blocks Curated is the platform’s top tier for generative art NFTs. Artists selected by the AB team at the Curated level get leeway to create an NFT drop considered part of the official Art Blocks collection.
Any project in the AB Curated is, more or less, viewed as the creme de la creme of the generative art NFT world. While many AB Curated projects were relatively inexpensive to mint when released (costing only hundreds of dollars), they’ve multiplied in value thousands of times since.
Art Blocks founder SnowFro created Chromie Squiggle, the first AB Curated NFT drop. Chromie Squiggles use minted token seeds to determine characteristics like the rate of gradient change and how many segments each has.
In the above screenshot, you’re looking at Chromie Squiggle #3784, which sold for 750 ETH (~$2M) in August. Nowadays, the cheapest Chromie Squiggle on NFT marketplace OpenSea will set you back about 11 ETH (~$36,000).
No discussion of AB Curated NFT series is complete without mentioning Fidenza by Tyler Hobbs and Ringers by Dmitri Cherniak.
Fidenza is described as a versatile algorithm focused on creating curvaceous, colorful, and entirely spontaneous patterning. In August, Fidenza #313 set a sales record for 1,000 ETH (~$3.4M).
Similarly, Cherniak’s Ringers series is highly rated on secondary NFT markets. Ringers explore the infinite ways to wrap a string around a set of pegs. Using an inspired algorithm and subtle interactions with a user’s minted transaction hash, Ringers are studies in geometric minimalism.
Ringer #879 sold to crypto fund Three Arrows for 1,800 ETH (~$6.1M), making it the most valuable secondary market sale of any Art Blocks collection piece.
Any artists who create an NFT drop in the AB Curated official collection can also create a series in the Artist Playground. These projects aren’t considered part of the official Art Blocks selection. Instead, the Playground is a space for artists to expand on experimental NFT ideas.
Beatboxes by Zeblocks are another Playground project pushing the bounds of what generative art NFTs can be. Like Alien Clocks, Beatboxes are an experience. They use the Ethereum blockchain to create unique virtual reality audiovisual rooms wherein you can walk, listen to music, and stimulate your senses.
The best way to experience a Beatbox is live, which you can do by clicking here.
Art Blocks Factory
Last but not least is the Art Blocks Factory tier. If an artist doesn’t want to wait for acceptance into the Curated collection, they can launch in the Factory. You might call Factory projects the wild cousins of more formal Curated series, but that’s intended.
Where Curated and Playground projects push generative art forward into a formal crypto art discipline, Factory NFT drops introduce more playfulness and spontaneity. For example, look no further than Hideo’s Dino Pals NFT series.
Dino Pals are a simplistic children’s rendering of prehistoric dinosaurs limited to 100 NFTs. Hideo’s script introduces randomized traits like species, color, eyebrows, and world. Dino Pals #41 features a rare albino triceratops, which is probably why its owner paid 375 ETH (~$1.2M) for it.
In fact, Dino Pals account for the majority of Art Blocks Factory sales volume. In August, Factory sales peaked at $16M in one day as Dino Pal frenzy took over.
More recently, Fake Internet Money by Steve Pikelny has started making waves. The series is limited to 1,000 NFTs and randomizes traits including denomination, layout, and emblem to create intriguing digital currencies.
It’s definitely worth your time to get in on an Art Blocks NFT drop. As you’ve probably gathered, Art Blocks NFTs have helped lucky owners generate life-changing wealth. But apart from wealth, some people are actually in it for the art.
The problem is Art Blocks NFT drops are incredibly competitive. In the end, minting an Art Blocks NFT is all about knowing when a series is dropping and having enough funds in your MetaMask wallet to cover high gas fees.
Connect to your MetaMask, then visit any open project on Art Blocks.
If the project is open and has mints left in the series, you’ll see a purchase button.
Once purchased using ETH, AB mints your unique generative artwork into your wallet.
Again, the trick here is knowing exactly when Art Blocks NFT drops are happening. The best way to find out is to follow Art Blocks on Twitter and join the Discord server. Besides these basic yet essential steps for keeping up with Art Blocks, following generative artists on Twitter and Instagram helps you stay ahead of the curve.