Sunday brunch would seem like an unlikely occasion to gather Web3 evangelists. But on October 1, one such event took place in Charleston, South Carolina. It was organized by two giants of the NFT universe, Beeple and Yuga Labs, and free to attend, so long as you owned a CryptoPunk.
That something is the release of physical edition prints of CryptoPunks. It’s a bold move for one of the progenitors of digital generative art — all the more so given Beeple is involved.
On October 26, Yuga Labs will open up a 48-hour window in which to print its pixelated faces. There are two events. The first, “Punk On Chain,” allows holders to obtain a physical version of their digital avatar for $640. The second, “10,000 Punks,” puts the full party of punks on a single 60-by-60 sheet and is available to anyone with an internet connection and $500 to spend.
Natalie Stone, CryptoPunks’s general manager, sees the release as a nod to its founding ethos. “Punks pre-date the concept of an NFT and speculative framing. They were infamously free to claim with the intention to be available and accessible to all,” she said. “The same can be said for printmaking, which has a history rooted in the mission of making great works of art widely available, and in turn, more valuable because it’s viewed and seen by more eyes.”
The physical venture arrives through a partnership with Avant Arte, a contemporary art marketplace aimed at making art more accessible (read: affordable). It has already solid Web3 cachet, having previously partnered with Nina Chanel Abney and the ubiquitous NFT collector Cozomo de’ Medici.
“CryptoPunks is an emblem for the crypto and Web3 movement,” Abigail Miller, Web3 Lead at Avant Arte said. “It’s a slice of Web3 history. Each print is made by our master printmakers in London and authenticated with both a physical and digital COA [certificate of authentication].”
Yuga Labs’s decision follows a trend of NFT projects flirting with physical editions. In May, Jack Butcher released handmade prints of his viral series alongside retro printmaker Jean Robert Milant. Damien Hirst encouraged collectors to design and print out physical versions of his NFTs. More recently, Dmitri Cherniak released prints from his seminal series, again in partnership with Avant Arte.
It feels like something of a full circle moment. When NFTs gatecrashed the art world in Spring 2021, they promised a future in which art would be enjoyed as readily on screens as on white walls.
That future is more distant now. Steep cryptocurrency depreciation, a surplus of NFT projects, and countless scams have seen interest cool. What better reflection of this shift than Yuga Labs—arguably the most successful of NFT projects—succumbing to the simple pleasure of a silkscreen print and the hard reality of fiat currency.
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