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"The Future of Digital Art: Exploring the $14.5 Million Autoglyphs Set Acquisition"


On Feb. 19, 2024 one of the largest on-chain digital art transactions ever took place for a set of 10 Autoglyphs, the seminal generative art project released by Larva Labs in April 2019.

In a landmark sale brokered by crypto art brokerage platform Fountain, the Autoglyphs set sold for 5,000 ETH ($14.536 million) to a traditional art collection. Adding to its rarity, the set is one of only three “dev sets” and all 10 pieces are sub-100 in series numbering.

The collector, who wishes to remain anonymous, plans to present the works in museums and institutional settings going forward.


Autoglyphs are widely recognized as the first on-chain generative art on the Ethereum blockchain. Launched by Larva Labs’ Matt Hall and John Watkinson nearly two years after they famously created CryptoPunks, the set of 512 unique outputs has become one of the most coveted collections for generative art collectors.

“For a collector, acquiring a set of 10 Autoglyphs is one of the most coveted and difficult-to-acquire artworks,” “There are only seven other collections in the world that also have this, one of them being Larva Labs itself.” 

“Today’s acquisition demonstrates the enduring conviction collectors have for digital art on the blockchain,” Noah Davis, Senior Specialist at Fountain, tells nft now. “Securing a full set of Autoglyphs — hands down, the most important early collection of generative art on Ethereum — is nothing short of a legendary achievement. The team at Fountain is delighted to have played our role in the sourcing, negotiation and settlement of this historic purchase.”

In an exclusive interview with Schmitt, nft now learned more about the acquisition and what’s next for the set.

CREDIT: CODEX PROJECTS

nft now: How did this acquisition come together?

Amanda Schmitt: This acquisition is made by a prolific traditional art collection, amplifying their existing commitment to embracing the evolution of artistic expression and innovation in all of the forms it takes, pre-digital and digital. The allure of Autoglyphs extends beyond its inherent beauty; it stands as a seminal piece in the evolution of NFTs and on-chain art. As the pioneering generative series that is self-contained, immutable, and fully on the blockchain, Autoglyphs holds a paramount position in shaping the trajectory of these artistic movements. Moreover, the collection recognizes Autoglyphs as it connects to rich lineage of digital and generative art since the 1960s, its relationship with Conceptual Art and Minimalism, and further tracing its roots further back to influential early 20th-century movements such as Concrete Art, Constructivism, and Suprematism. The innovation of abstraction in the 20th century was an important aspect of their collection and acquiring a set of Autoglyphs was a natural progression.

Why did the Autoglyphs set appeal to this collector?

I advise for several collections, some which focus on traditional art mediums, and others that are interested in on-chain digital art, and sometimes both (as is the case with this collection). They developed their aesthetic by collecting traditional analog art forms, and we began to understand the extraordinary innovation taking place by artists who are using on-chain technologies such as NFTs on the Ethereum chain. We view the acquisition of these Autoglyphs as no different from the acquisition of a painting or a sculpture. 

Larva Labs’ Autoglyphs are among the earliest and purest forms of on-chain digital art. Their algorithmic nature and aesthetic connect with early computer generative art and with coding itself. This aesthetic in turn has powerful connections with early modernist abstract and concrete art. Piet Mondrian’s + – paintings come to mind such as “Composition 10” from 1915, and clear references can be made to early computer compositions of the 1960s (many have reference Michael A. Noll’s work of this time). 


CREDIT: CODEX PROJECTS

The Autoglyphs must also be placed in a genealogy of conceptual art and their most obvious precedent is Sol Lewitt’s instructional drawings. I also must draw a comparative analysis against Hans Haacke’s Manet-PROJEKT 74 —a classic institutional critique piece made in 1974 in which all the successive owners of a Manet painting are uncovered through meticulous research. This piece was meant to expose the machinations of the art market. In the blockchain, the transaction history and provenance is always already part of the work itself, and of its meaning. And in this case, in a positive, value-enhancing way. 

One thing that I especially love about Autoglyphs is that they were developed from a place of creative problem-solving (many artistic, and scientific epiphanies, have been made this way). After creating the seminal series, CryptoPunks, Larva Labs was tackling the obstacle of how to store media on the Ethereum chain, which had its constraints. What they discovered was that the generative algorithm was the artwork itself: the inherent beauty of that code is self-evident. 

In both its meaning and in its aesthetic, I also love how Autoglyphs feel simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Some people have described them as the cave paintings of on-chain generative art, and they earn that name both in their primitivism and simplicity, but also in the huge leap forward they established. They also feel to me, as if they are a language from the future that we don’t quite understand yet (at least, literally). They’re both mysterious and mystic. It’s a hyperbolic gesture, but I almost feel, as if if we were to project these Glyphs into outer space extra-terrestrial beings would finally understand what we’re trying to say. 


In your eyes, what makes this Autoglyphs acquisition historic?

For a collector, acquiring a set of 10 Autoglyphs is one of the most coveted and difficult-to-acquire artworks. There are only seven other collections in the world that also have this, one of them being Larva Labs itself. 

Furthermore, this grouping is especially rare because it’s only one of three “dev sets,” and even more rare, the Autoglyphs are all sub-100 series numbers, meaning all 10 glyphs in the set are among the first 100 to be minted in Autoglyphs (this is considered to be important by Larva Labs themselves, who own #1, for example)


PS: This a stunning sale considering how interest in digital art and NFT tanked after the crypto scandals: The former CEO of crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman Freed, Binance Holdings Ltd. and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). There has been plenty of interest waiting on sidelines but as with every collecting category rarity trumps market conditions every time.

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