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Robert Alice, On Quantum in

Robert Alice (Ed.)
On NFTs (Taschen, 2024)

3 Editions including 2 Collector's Editions and a Trade Edition
Hardcover 'BABY SUMO' volume in slipcase, 36 x 50 cm

Robert Alice contributed an essay to TASCHEN's On NFTs (2024) entitled On Quantum, which examines the early art history of NFTs through the lens of Kevin MCCoy's Quantum (2014). An excerpt is published here: 

In the long timeline of art, there are a small community of works that serve as genesis blocks to their own chain of art history. They become historical forks in cultural direction; forks that usher in new movements which, block by block, mint by mint, establish new art histories. Often unknown at the time, these works close chapters on the art histories that came before, while anchoring a new flourishing of artistic creativity. They occupy an important position: they came first. Pulsing with color, a raw beacon to a new era, Kevin McCoy’s Quantum (2014) [01.00] is such a work. Minted by the artist on May 2, 2014 21:27:34 — or more precisely, Namecoin Block 174923 — the idea of NFT art quietly dawned.1 What a noise it makes today. Beyond its status as one of the earliest of these records, Quantum’s aesthetics, its medium, and its creator provide us a lens through which to analyze and lay out not just the early history of NFTs and their prehistory, but also a deeper understanding of what NFTs are.2 As with the genesis of any idea or movement, one can also read into it the longer history of this act of creation. What drove McCoy to transition his long-standing digital practice onto the blockchain? Why was an artist whose work sits in the collections of the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art exploring an obscure and highly disruptive technology more popularly associated at the time with darknet marketplaces? The conclusions offered will reflect on the nature of NFTs, practically and theoretically, and how the early history of this still-fractured movement provided the conceptual and literal framework for one of art history’s profound technological breakthroughs.

On NFTs is the first major art historical survey of this divisive and contemporary medium. From algorithmic art to avatars, On NFTs includes 10 academic essays and richly illustrated profiles of 101 key artists working with NFTs today. BABY SUMO in format, On NFTs is available for purchase in crypto.

Robert Alice’s On NFTs is the first major art historical survey text on the most compelling, disruptive area of contemporary art today. A rigorous and critical examination of all facets of the NFT ecosystem, On NFTs takes a multidimensional, artist-led approach, leaving its readers with a richer understanding of a topic often shrouded in misconception and pixelated mystery.

The book, presented in TASCHEN’s iconic grand-scale BABY SUMO format and housed in a bespoke aluminum book covering, presents a wide range of essential information to those both new or experienced with the modern medium. Featuring 10 essays from the world’s leading voices in art and blockchain, including Hans Ulrich Obrist, On NFTs is a book that celebrates unlikely and thought-provoking connections from across art history. Expect illustrations of Rembrandt paintings alongside CryptoPunk avatars, extensive essays explaining the nitty-gritty world of NFTs—including Sol LeWitt’s influence on today’s artistic algorithms—as well as behind-the-scenes access to the creative processes of pioneering artists from Beeple and Emily Xie to Snowfro and Refik Anadol.

Accompanying the 10 essays, On NFTs presents a co-curated survey of 101 key practices working in NFTs today. With each profile uniquely authored by handpicked experts, including curators, critics, artists, and AI, On NFTs embraces a diverse and global voice to navigate this borderless movement. Perfect for both natives and newcomers, On NFTs features an extensive glossary of key terms, and a comprehensive exhibition history and timeline of the digital art canon.