Dating back to the 1960s, the generative art movement is relatively young in art history terms but long predates the advent of blockchain technology. However, a new generation of on-chain generative projects is now driving the NFT market boom, commanding eye-popping prices and helping bring amorphous concepts like GAN and AI technology into mainstream focus.
On this list of five generative art and music projects to know, we’ve purposefully omitted popular generative avatar and collectible projects like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club here as we’re doing dedicated deep-dives on them. We wanted this list to focus purely on art and music projects and provide a helpful primer to new entrants to the space. There are also certainly more than five such projects worth your attention, but we’ll kick this series off with some of the most notable ones to be aware of.
Founded in 2019 by the same Larva Labs technologists behind CryptoPunks, Autoglyphs is widely recognized as the first “on-chain” generative art project. Created by code on the Ethereum blockchain, the art produced by the algorithm is notably stored within the contract itself. While glyphs were originally mintable with a 0.2 ETH charitable donation to 350.org, the priciest pieces have since fetched as much as 460 ETH on the secondary market. Given that only 512 total glyphs will ever exist, the project boasts many of the same factors that contributed to the success of CryptoPunks — provable digital scarcity, historical significance, and provenance.
One of the most successful NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain, Art Blocks is in a class of its own when it comes to active generative art projects. Founded by Snowfro, the platform is built around its Art Node smart contract that allows collectors to mint tokens containing a unique hash string. The thrill of the unknown is part of its appeal as collectors don’t know exactly what their piece will look like until after it’s been minted. Art Blocks projects are categorized between Curated, Playground, and Factory. Leading Curated projects like Fidenza and Ringers have seen some of their rarest pieces sell for seven figures. Another one of the most popular Curated projects is the Chromie Squiggle, which recently spawned its own SquiggleDAO – complete with a $SQUIG governance token.
Launched by Treum.io in February, EulerBeats has emerged as one of the leading projects for generative on-chain music. Consisting of only 54 total audiovisual pieces (27 Genesis and 27 Enigma) generated using mathematician Euler’s totient function phi, the series brings a level of ultra-scarcity and innovation that appeals to collectors and technologists alike. The project also features a custom smart contract that expands on the ERC-1155 standard to enable the minting of fungible print tokens (119 for each Genesis and 160 for each Enigma) for each non-fungible original on a pre-set bonding curve. Buoyed by support from Mark Cuban (who called them “the most genius idea ever”), EulerBeats generated $1.1 million in royalties in its first week and has seen its originals sell for six figures on the secondary market.
Consisting of six series of audiovisual art generated by self-contained code, 0xDeafbeef is a tribute on-chain permanence. Its creator purposefully chose the C language due to the ubiquity of its use to avoid a new dependency that could theoretically threaten the preservation of the media on the Ethereum network in the future. Launched in March with its debut series ‘Synth Poems,’ the project has moved more than 330 ETH ($740,000) in sales volume and been embraced by on-chain maximalists (see Fingerprints DAO) in the NFT community. A full set of 0xDeafbeef series 0-5 recently sold for 2,275 ETH ($6,930,029), representing the highest bundle sale price ever recorded on OpenSea.
Solvency has emerged as one of the most exciting new generative art projects to watch in the NFT space. Created by New York artist Ezra Miller and launched in April, the project employs dynamic WebGL simulations to generate textured feedback loops drawn from a GAN trained on 35 mm photographs and layered colors based on information from its minting transaction, all via a custom smart contract by Steve Klebanoff. With a rising floor price and support from top collectors like 888, Seedphrase and Pranksy, this project is likely headed for a bright future.
Editor’s note: At time of publication, members of the nft now staff are owners of Art Blocks.