Computer scientist turned generative artist Tyler Hobbs writes code artistically, which then creates visual art that has sold for millions.
Along with 998 siblings, Fidenza #313 was minted for 0.17 ETH on June 11th, after which it was immediately sold for 0.58 ETH. Just over 10 weeks later, the NFT nicknamed “Tulip” sold for 1,000 ETH on Opensea — $3.3 million at the time.
Fidenza is the brainchild of Tyler Hobbs, 34, who quit his computer engineering job to work as a full time artist. He struck ETH when he discovered Art Blocks, an art platform that creates NFT’s based on generative art, and became a curated artist.
The work is named after a town in northern Italy, which Hobbs stumbled upon via Google Maps. Inspired by abstract expressionist painter Francis Klein, Hobbs likes to use the names of places for his art because they carry little baggage or definitive meaning.
A total of 999 works were “dropped”, selling out in 25 minutes for 0.17 ETH, or about $400. The approximate $400,000 in sales were split 90/10 between Hobbs and Art Blocks. On the secondary market, chiefly Opensea, his works come with a pre-programmed 10% commission, which is automatically shared 5.0%/2.5%/2.5% between himself, Art Blocks, and Opensea. With an estimated 85 million in secondary sales, Hobbs has already earned over $4 million in commissions.
As a coder, he felt it important to create art using the tools he knew, making people ask “what separates man from machine?”
Hobbs says that buyers come from around the world and are most commonly middle aged men. These largely inexperienced art collectors who come from the crypto or technology world “have less of an inherent bias against this artwork,” whereas many traditionalists “feel that there’s something inherently less human or less real” about his style.
“They’re generally both interested in the artwork, and they’re willing to risk a fairly large amount of money on something that’s unproven — I think it takes a special breed of person to be that kind of collector.”
The mechanics of a generative artwork drop on Art Blocks are unique, as the art does not exist until it is “minted” by the buyer. Minting begins at a pre-announced time, which Art Blocks advertises. To mint, buyers pay the predetermined ETH-denominated price along with necessary gas fees, and receive the artwork upon its generation — which takes up to 30 seconds in the case of Fidenza.
The code that creates the artwork on the blockchain uses the randomized transaction hash of the buyer’s transaction as an input. This string of data is then interpreted by the code, which assigns the artwork with various overlapping characteristics according to parameters pre-programmed by the artist, to generate the artwork in real time. Like a sperm fertilizing an egg, the contribution of the minter is a unique, direct, and necessary ingredient of the artistic equation.
A few of the “super dense” Fidenzas that max out the visual noise level. They can be overwhelming at first, but they have their own charm if you sit with them. pic.twitter.com/vRGOWWk1gi
— Tyler Hobbs (@tylerxhobbs) June 24, 2021
Because the code for Fidenza is on the blockchain, anyone can use it to create similar pieces. However, because “Fidenza” is limited to 999 numbered copies, such “bootleg Fidenzas” would not be “signed” by the artist — much like if someone copied an artist’s style with the same materials and tools.
While Hobbs considers it “interesting for people to be able to explore that algorithm” and appreciate the aesthetic value it can create, he makes it clear that his vision for Fidenza is now complete. “I think the 999 is sort of the perfect test run of the algorithm, and captures everything that I could have wanted it to capture,” he says, adding that he likes that there is “a clear start and a clear finish.”
“There’s a certain artistic challenge…