Checks Elements, a 152-piece generative art collection, is inspired by the four classical elements of earth, fire, water and air. Each piece in the collection is a unique algorithmically-generated composite of colors that make up these elements, and explores the "ever-evolving relationship between consensus and truth."
"Elements are conceptually ... the first instance of decentralized consensus," Butcher told CoinDesk. "We're trying to play into the themes that Checks is trying to express about consensus on the internet to pre-internet consensus, which is that all of these different cultures, languages, parts of the world, different schools of thought around how the world came to be ... all landed on these four categories of matter – earth, water, air and fire."
Butcher explained that to create the new collection, his team modified the algorithm that created the original Checks collection and added some new parameters. Butcher teamed up with master printmaker Jean Robert Milant and Cirrus editions to bring the NFT outputs to life, translating them into hand-drawn 30-inch by 43-inch monoprints created via an on-chain SVG file fed through a vintage lithographic printing press.
To create the physical prints, the signature four-by-four Checks grid was etched onto a plate used by the printer. Each paint color featured in the collection was added one by one, based on the algorithmic outputs created by Butcher and his team. Each physical artwork was then authenticated using Butcher's fingerprint and comes paired with an Ethereum-based NFT.
"Translating Checks into a physical artwork, it never felt like anything was really continuing the project's DNA until we spoke to Milant and understood his process," he said. "There's a lot of similarities in the way conceptually these [prints] come from a set of constraints that then get modified based on rules that are computer generated."
Three of the four "Alpha" elements, including water, air and earth, will be offered at a solo auction at Christie's beginning on May 16 and concluding on May 23. A portion of the sale proceeds will be donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The physical work and their digital counterparts will then be displayed at Christie's New York gallery from May 20.
The remainder of the Checks Elements, including the fourth Alpha element of fire, will then be offered via public auction for 24 hours. The physical prints will begin shopping on June 24.
Existing with and apart from Checks VV
Butcher told CoinDesk that the auction will use "some of the dynamics" used in the original Checks collections, although he said that this project would not necessarily be interoperable with the other gamified pieces. In the previous Checks collection, inspired by the blue verification check mark popularized by Twitter, holders have been able to composite NFTs to create smaller, unique editions of checkmarks (you can read more about the mechanics here).
"There are definitely things that will carry over when the rest of the collection is offered at auction post-Christie's and this is not going to operate as a traditional, run-of-the-mill auction," he explained. "There are a lot of mechanics at play once that launches. But the idea of [Elements] over the long term is to exist as pairs that sit together as a complement to the existing checks ecosystem."
It is also possible that collectors may want to decouple their physical prints from their NFTs and sell them separately, an outcome that Butcher said is possible, though he believes that for provenance purposes, people will want to keep them together.
"I have some guesses as to how that will play out and I would imagine the pairs staying together for people who are in it for the art," he said.
"We made a conscious choice not to include a burn mechanism into this thing," added Martin Klipp, president of Beyond Art Creative, who helped bring the artwork to life. "Because in my mind ... both pieces are art. Both pieces are twinned, both pieces have their merits and both exist together or apart."
Other NFT artists and galleries have recently embraced physical forms of their NFTs, with Tyler Hobbs exhibiting large-scale prints of his QQL: Analogs at New York City's Pace Gallery in March 2023. In February 2023, Art Blocks and NFT Gallery Bright Moments paired up to bring real-life experiences to locations in five cities, allowing owners of artist Mpkoz's Metropolis NFT collection to join a physical activation to mint a second, physical piece in the specific city tied to their NFT.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.