The A-Z of NFT: artists and terminology to know
From avatars and Beeple to Web3 and yield farming, a handy guide to everything crypto in one place — with examples previously sold at Christie’s
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Bored Apes are a collection of 10,000 NFTs by the Bored Ape Yacht Club, created by Yuga Labs. Celebrities including Justin Bieber, Eminem and Timbaland are among the owners of the cartoon ape avatars. Bored Ape Yacht Club #8746 was minted and sold by Christie’s Hong Kong in 2021for HKD 9,610,000.
NFT Avatars are digital versions of yourself that you can design to appear however you would like to present in the metaverse while engaging with other avatars. Popular NFT avatar collections include Bored Apes, CryptoPunks, and World of Women.
Beeple, the digital artist whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, minted EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for Christie’s New York. The NFT, which sold for over $69 million, marked the first fully digital work of art offered at a major auction house, as well as the first time Christie’s accepted payment in cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin, introduced to the public in 2009 by a developer under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, is the most well-known cryptocurrency and the one for which blockchain technology was created.
A Blockchain is a decentralised digital ledger allowing users to store information in a secure and permanent way. The data is stored in cryptographic blocks that form a time-stamped, immutable chain. The technology is widely known for currencies such as Bitcoin, but, from an art perspective, the same register can capture information such as provenance, sale history and records.
Counterparty is a cross-platform founded in 2014 that allows for peers to create and trade their assets with others on the Bitcoin blockchain. This platform enabled the creation of digital assets that paved the way for NFTs.
Cryptocurrency is a secure digital currency based on blockchain technology. Examples include Bitcoin and Ethereum.
CryptoKitties is a digital trading game started in late 2017, one of the world’s first blockchain games. Each CryptoKitty is an NFT with unique traits and players can breed them to create cats with rare attributes that can be traded and sold through the Ethereum blockchain.
CryptoPunks are a collection of 10,000 NFTs featuring 8-bit-style pixel-art images of alternative characters with unique, randomly generated features. Created by Larva Labs in 2017, they are considered the first community NFT. A lot of nine Punks were sold at Christie’s New York in 2021.
Curio Cards, minted in 2017, are the first known art NFT collection on the Ethereum blockchain. The full set of 30 trading cards made by 7 different artists were sold at Christie’s in September 2021 for ETH 393 or $1,202,108.
Diana Sinclair is an artist based in the New York City area, working in photography, video and multimedia layering. Sinclair curated The Digital Diaspora, a Juneteenth art exhibition and NFT auction celebrating the work of Black artists and was selected as one of the most influential people in NFTs by Fortune.
A drop typically refers to the initial release of a minted non-fungible token or NFT.
Digital art is art that is created or presented using computer software or electronics. NFTs provide a way for artists to trade and sell digital art.
Discord is a social platform for voice and instant messaging communications via private chats and communities called servers. It is widely used by the NFT community for sharing information and marketing their digital art.
ERC-721, finalized in 2018, is the standard smart contract that made it easy to create verifiably, cryptographically unique tokens. It underpins many non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ether, or ETH, is the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain.
Ethereum is a blockchain platform that allows for securely processing peer-to-peer transactions. Many popular art NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain due to the platform’s smart contract functionality.
Victor Langlois, known as FEWOCiOUS, is an 18-year-old artist who created five digital works for Hello, I’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and This is My Life, offered by Christie’s in 2021. The NFTs combine text and detailed imagery from his personal journal entries, which record his experiences as a young transgender person.
FriendsWithYou is an art collaboration between Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III with the goal to uplift happiness and love. They debuted fRiENDSiES, an NFT project and Web3 community, at Art Basel Miami Beach with Christie’s in 2021.
GIF, which stands for graphical interchange format, is a digital file format developed by Steve Wilhite, a software writer, in 1987. Simply put, it’s a soundless looped animation of images in a small, easily shareable file size.
Gucci sold its first NFT, Aria, at Christie’s New York in Summer 2021 for $25,000. Gucci teamed with Offsetra to mitigate the environmental impact of minting and auctioning, ultimately making its NFT participation carbon negative.
HUMAN ONE (b.1981) is a continuously evolving sculptural digital artwork by Beeple, which sold at Christie’s New York in 2021 for $28,985,000. HUMAN ONE is described as dystopian, involving hallucinations nodding to the past, present, and future.
InterPlanetary File System, or IPFS, is a decentralised system for peers to store and access their data. This is a common storage choice for digital artists.
JPEG, an acronym for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is the most widely used digital image file format. It is compressed without significant quality loss, allowing it to be shared on the Internet quickly and efficiently.
Justin Aversano is a photographer, as well as a cofounder and CEO of Quantum Art, an online space focusing on digital photography and the curation of digital culture through NFTs. His work Twin Flames #83, from his first collection comprising 100 images of identical twins, sold for $1,110,000 in Christie’s Photographs auction in October 2021.
Kevin Abosch, a conceptual artist, created YELLOW LAMBO, a sculpture referencing the Lamborghini as a symbol of success in the crypto community, for Christie’s debut ART+TECH Summit in London in 2018.
Larva Labs is a New York-based software company founded by Matt Hall and John Watkinson. They created projects such as Cryptopunks, Meebits, and Autoglyphs, among others.
Mad Dog Jones, born Michah Dowbak, is a Canadian NFT artist. In January 2021, he partnered with the Grammy-nominated musician Deadmau5 to release a series of NFTs combining music and art on Nifty Gateway. He was first part of Christie's Trespassing sale in 2021, where his work Bag of Oranges, a video NFT of multiple technological realities in an oversaturated environment, realised $212,500.
The Merge that Ethereum is undergoing in September 2022, will change how the cryptocurrency is secured from a proof-of-work model (how Bitcoin is secured) to a proof-of-stake model, reducing their carbon footprint and the overall supply of Ether.
Metadata provides information about the digital work associated with an NFT. This often includes its title, a description of the work, and a link to its primary assets, such as the image file.
Metaverse is an evolving term, but it loosely refers to a network of immersive, 3D virtual worlds that connects users with various digital experiences and assets.
Minting an NFT refers to publishing a unique digital asset on a blockchain for the first time.
Takashi Murakami and the virtual fashion studio RTFKT created CloneX, a collection of 20,000 Avatar NFTs with unique clothing and traits with Murakami’s signature bright cartoony designs.
A non-fungible token (or NFT) is a unique digital certificate stored on a blockchain that provides ownership rights to a digital asset, like a work of digital art. It cannot be replaced.
Nyan Cat is a popular humorous GIF created by the artist Chris Torres. To celebrate its 10th anniversary in February 2021, Torres sold it as a unique and unduplicable NFT, generating a bidding frenzy.
On-chain NFTs are tokens that are written, stored, and traded completely on the blockchain, including their metadata, image assets, and smart contract.
OpenSea, founded in 2017, is the first and largest digital marketplace to buy and sell NFTs. Christie’s collaborated with OpenSea on Christie’s first-ever on-chain NFT auction in December 2021: Christie’s x OpenSea.
PNG, which stands for Portable Graphics Format, is an image file format that has lossless compression and can be viewed on any browser at high quality, making it effective for NFT art.
Pudgy Penguins are an NFT collection featuring 8888 unique penguins located in an arctic metaverse. Many owners use their image as their profile picture on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Quantum, created by the New York-based artist Kevin McCoy, was the first NFT, minted in May 2014. The digital work features abstract and vibrant octagonal shapes that continuously morph in animation. In February 2022, Christie’s Photographs department and Quantum held an online sale, In Ascent: Christie’s x Quantum.
Quantum Art is a platform that makes NFTs accessible for both artists and collectors as they are focused on curating and dropping NFT collections.
Rare Pepes are a subset of ‘Pepe the Frog’ memes made by various artists—based on a character by cartoonist Matt Furie—that became one of the first art experiments on the blockchain before the debut of Ethereum-based NFTs. Homer Pepe, an early work from the Rare Pepe Collectibles platform, made headlines when it sold for $321,440 in 2021.
Refik Anadol is a Turkish-American new media artist and designer. He uses data-driven machine learning algorithms to create abstract, dream-like environments. His Gaudí-inspired work Living Architecture: Casa Batlló is the first live dynamic and generative NFT of its kind. It sold at Christie’s in May 2022 for $1.38 million.
Robert Alice is a London-based artist at the forefront of crypto art. His NFT Block 21 explores the complexity of light and dark and their relationship to the physical and virtual world; it sold for $131,250 in 2020 at Christie’s New York.
Sam Spratt is an artist focused on bridging traditional painting techniques and ancient stories into the digital realm. He began his career creating artwork for Marvel, Kid Cudi, Rockstar Games, among others and broke into the NFT space relatively recently with his series: LUCI and has since carved out a space uniquely his own. His work VII. Wormfood sold at Christie's Cartography of the Mind sale for $252,000 in June 2022.
Smart contract is a computer program or protocol on the blockchain that acts as a digital contract as it assigns ownership and assists in transferring data agreements between peers in code.
TokenID is the unique identifier number of the NFT.
Twitter is a social media platform frequented by the NFT community. Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey, turned his first tweet ‘just setting up my twttr’ into an NFT, which sold for $2.9 million in March 2021.
Unique is a defining characteristic of each NFT, which has a contract attesting to its uniqueness like a certificate of authenticity.
Urs Fischer created a collection of 501 sculptures transformed into 3D digital models released as individual NFTs called CHAOS #1-#501. Christie’s sold CHAOS #17 Pardon for $60,000 in Summer 2021, as well as a suite of works from the series in November 2021 for $225,000.
Verifiable provenance is a built-in feature of NFTs, which document their proof of origin on the blockchain. A perk of collecting digital art!
A wallet is a device or platform that stores a user’s keys and allows them to access their cryptocurrency and tokens.
Andy Warhol created five digital works in the 1980s. They were recovered in 2014 and minted into five unique NFTs that sold for over $3.38 million in Christie’s 2021 Summer online auction. The works include two self-portraits as well as his famous flower, Campbell’s soup can, and banana motifs.
Web3, also known as Web 3.0, is the term some technologists use to describe the future of the World Wide Web based on decentralised blockchain technology. Following a successful Web3 focused ART+TECH Summit in July 2022, Christie’s announced the launch of their own Web3 platform, Christie’s 3.0, on 23 September of the same year.
The Birth of Wikipedia at Christie’s featured an NFT of the first Wikipedia edit, made by the site’s founder Jimmy Wales, as well as the iMac computer he used to make Wikipedia. The sale totalled $937,500.
World of Women are a team of creators whose mission is to make the NFT space more diverse. Partnering with and educating emerging creators around the world, their collections strive to make art more approachable, authentic and inclusive for all backgrounds, while giving back to women-led and sustainability-focused organisations. Woman #5652, from their first collection in 2021, sold at Christie’s London 21st Century Evening Sale this past spring for £567,000.
XCOPY is a London based crypto artist whose 2018-minted NFT ‘A Coin for the Ferryman,’ sold on SuperRare in November 2021 for $6.03 million.
XMR, better known as Monero, is a decentralized cryptocurrency launched in 2014 that allows for private and anonymous transactions.
Yield farming is a crypto investment strategy that uses decentralized finance (DeFi) to maximize returns. Investors lend, borrow, stake, or provide liquidity using their cryptocurrency, earning yield on their assets through rewards.
Yuga Labs is the parent company best known as the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. In March 2022, they acquired the CryptoPunks and Meebits NFT collections from Larva Labs and extended full commercial rights to the individual token holders.
Zilliqa is a smart contract blockchain platform that aims to increase scalability and speed.