Claire Silver on CryptoPunks: “They’ve Opened More Doors Than My College Degree”

BY Matt Medved

October 17, 2023

Claire Silver has always had a way with words.

Prompted to describe the story of CryptoPunks in one sentence, she pauses before delivering a poignant answer: “Visionaries find their family.”

In the second episode of “Punks As Told By CryptoPunks,” an in-depth new docuseries presented by nft now and CryptoPunks, the renowned AI collaborative artist offers a reflective history of her involvement with the project and its inspiration in her rise.

“Knowing the Punks has been more fulfilling and opened more doors for me than my college degree or prior career,” the anonymous artist states.

In a candid interview with Matt Medved, nft now’s co-founder, CEO & editor-in-chief, Silver dives deep into the project’s significance within the greater digital art revolution and her decision to build her digital identity around it.

Matt Medved: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you first hear about CryptoPunks?

Claire Silver: I was on 4chan on the big boards back in 2017. Right before the launch, I was chatting with someone about CryptoPunks. And I was sad that I missed the claim. And so he said, “Well, I claimed 730. Do you want three?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “Great, hold them until they’re in the MoMA.” And I said I would.

So he sent me three. One was an albino mohawk punk with a mole, which I love. One was a girl with crazy red hair. I called her “Strawberry Marla.” I had to end up selling her to pay for my mom’s cancer treatment, which she’s now totally in remission. And I am so grateful to have been able to do that. That was really special. But I’ve kept the other two. And then there’s #1629, which is my pink-haired punk. I immediately gravitated to her. I’ve had pink hair in late high school and college, and so it immediately resonated there.

“He said, ‘Great, hold them until they’re in the MoMA.’ And I said I would.”


In late 2020, I saw the CryptoPunks Discord; many punks used them as their PFPs on Twitter. We were talking about things, and people were more inclined to listen because it was OG. And I wanted to be their friend. And so I started using mine as my PFP, too. And that’s kind of how it how it started. I thought having a visual component of art on the blockchain was fascinating. I could see that it was going to be something special. But I didn’t have the vision of Mr. 730 or some of the other OG punks, or I would have been in there claiming large amounts.

What do you think makes punk so attractive as a digital avatar?

Well, they’re immediately recognizable, even the imitations. You can immediately tell them apart. There’s something about Punks that’s very distinctive. The people who own and have been using them for a couple of years are strongly opinionated, passionate, driven, and ideological. But not in the zealous way I’ve seen; for the most part, it’s very logical. They’re just passionate about the space, the future, and moving us there.

How do you feel the CryptoPunks project represents the future of art? What do you think its significance is within this new art movement?

It’s not only an innovative, visionary start to a movement that will define our idea of ownership over the next generation but also its membership to a social sort of club, to a tribe, in a way, because they’re worth so much financially. Even with the fluctuations, having one and having it as your PFP has always been a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ kind of thing. It’s saying that what this stands for is worth more to me than what I could gain financially from parting with it, right? It’s saying that the ideals and the interests of this sort of tribe resonate with me more than what it could benefit me to sell. So I’ve always respected CryptoPunks that have it as their PFP… Many of them are OG, so it’s a mark of time. It’s an indicator of a time capsule of being part of this before the mainstream was aware of it at all, and I think that’s a special thing that ties them together.

“It’s an indicator of a time capsule of being part of this before the mainstream was aware of it at all.”


What do you think the long-term impact of the CryptoPunks project will be?

When they first came out, there was some discussion on Twitter about it being low effort. This was made by a machine. It spits out random traits and combinations and that kind of thing. And I remember thinking that was so ridiculous because, to me, that sounded incredibly innovative and super interesting. As time goes on, I think we’ll see creativity through a different lens. Less intentional from the start and more about setting parameters and letting things go.

In religious circles, there’s something called the Clockmaker Theory, which is a theory that God doesn’t intervene in the universe directly; he made a watch a clock, wound it, and then let it run. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I think that plays with generative and AI because you set the parameters for a world and let it run… That idea of being the visionary and then letting the machine iterate, create, and go from your ideas and creative inspiration. I think that’s how we’re gonna see creativity and a lot of ways moving forward and a lot of different genres. So CryptoPunks were super innovative in many dimensions, that being one of them.

CryptoPunk #1629

You’ve made the decision to be undoxxed. What does that entail? And why did you make that decision?

I made the decision because I like to sleep at night. I watch too many crime documentaries where things happen for very small amounts of money. With CryptoPunks worth what they’re worth, I would rather sleep soundly.

Another reason is that I could look like your kindergarten teacher, horrible ex-girlfriend, or sister-in-law. There are concepts and ideas and baggage tied to that where your opinion of me will be shaped not just by my ideas but by my appearance. I’d rather avoid that altogether. Everyone has their own idea of what anonymous people look like… I want you to be able to picture me however you picture me. So using the Punk has been really useful for that, too, because there’s a culture of anonymity and your ideas being the only way you’re represented.

“I made the decision because I like to sleep at night.”


Watch the full second episode here. Check back each week for new episodes exploring the project’s evolution and interviewing notable figures across the CryptoPunks community.

Editor’s note: At the time of publication, the author holds one CryptoPunk NFT. This interview transcript has been edited for concision and clarity.

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