Art and technology have developed a love-hate relationship with the rise of the Internet. It’s easy to do a Google Image search for any piece of art, and it’s trivial to copy digital files. While this means greater access to art, it also means that true art is cheapened in the face of a flood of copies.
Art has long been one of the most dynamic and compelling of markets – for many both a personal passion and a lucrative field of investment. But it can also be a very challenging market to enter. With the best pieces often demanding astronomically high prices, access to quality opportunities in the high end can be difficult. And while the global and highly diverse nature of the rest of the art market makes for a great deal of choice, it is not always easy to gain an overview of what is available, be sure of the provenance or value a piece, or to guard against counterfeit and fraud.
However, the art industry has generally been ruled by wealthy people unconcerned with digital evolution.
Blockchain-enabled immutable ledgers can be applied to a particular work of art to track its journey from artists to owners. The technology also provides a new currency for exchange, making it an exciting innovative tool for the art world.
In this article, let’s see the impact of blockchain in the art world.
Technology Meets Creativity
Some people say that technology is a form of art. With the recent boom of the blockchain art market, this is looking to be more fact than fiction these days. From digital kittens and meme trading cards fetching prices of over $100,000 to artificial intelligence (AI) driven artwork, blockchain technology has officially entered the art world.
Blockchain art consists of more than just slapping a piece of art online, though. There are a few things you should know about this emerging market and how it’s changing art for the better.
People are Creating Blockchain Art
There are a few different methods artists are using to incorporate blockchain into their work. Some artists are creating pieces in which blockchain is the subject while others are actually using the technology in their creations:
Currently, the most popular form of blockchain art, collectibles like CryptoKitties and Rare Pepe trading cards have garnered a cult-like following. These digital pieces of art are directly created, stored, and traded on blockchain platforms like Ethereum and Counterparty.
Like Beanie Babies, the rareness of each collectible is what drives its value and price. You can easily pick up collectible blockchain art for as little as $5, but some pieces have price tags of over $100,000.
Beyond collectibles, artists are finding other ways to utilize blockchain technology for their artwork. One example of this is the Scarab Experiment. The Scarab Experiment combines artificial intelligence (AI) with tokenized memberships to create one piece of art from the combined 1000 submissions of community members. Once you submit your art, you receive a tradeable Scarab token that gives you voting rights for what artwork the project includes.
Plantoid is a self-replicating “life form” also driven by AI and blockchain, specifically Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s a robotic plant with a DNA structure on the Ethereum network that interacts with the people that donate to it. Once it receives enough Bitcoin donations, the Plantoid enters the “reproduction phase” in which it puts out a call for artists and designers to create another Plantoid. The person that gets the bid must create another Plantoid following the same DNA rules as the Plantoid before it. In return, the creator receives the Bitcoin donations from the original plant through a smart contract.
Although not built with blockchain, there are numerous works of art that use the technology as inspiration. Once, a publically commissioned Bitcoin monument was erected in Kranj, Slovenia. Citizens of the city submitted ideas for the monument through Facebook, and officials chose Bitcoin because of the region’s ties with the industry.
Blockchain has also influenced Bitcoin graffiti art, renditions of Satoshi Nakamoto, and even the Last (Bitcoin) Supper.
Tracking and Verification Art on the Blockchain
Perhaps more important than creating art is being able to verify that the art you purchase is authentic. The Fine Art Experts Institute (FAEI) in Geneva stated in 2014 that over 50% of the artwork that they examine are either forged or misattributed to the incorrect artists. With pieces in the fine arts market selling for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s important that you are buying what you think you are buying.
Similar to blockchain’s use in agriculture and supply chain, you can use the power of public immutability to maintain art’s integrity. To do so, some projects are working to tokenize art provenance. Blockchain art provenance is a method of proving the ownership of original creations through blockchain. It works like this:
- An artist creates a new piece and certifies it with a token on a blockchain.
- When you buy the artwork from the artist, they transfer the associated token to you.
- When you sell the piece, you transfer the token to the buyer.
The token transactions are stored publicly, so you, as a buyer, can easily track the entire history of ownership back to the artist. If the token doesn’t originate with the artist’s wallet, the artwork is a fake.
You can use this process for physical pieces of art as well as digital works. Because digital works are easily reproducible, associating them with tokens preserves their rarity which, in turn, retains their value.
As with most industries, the blockchain art market is best at making middlemen obsolete. Decentralized art galleries are popping up left and right giving most (if not all) of sale proceeds to the artists.
Curio Cards are GIFs and images tied to Ethereum in which artists receive 100% of their sales. Because the cards are on the blockchain, you, as an artist, can choose exactly how many you want to sell. There’s no need to worry about copying, forgery, or massive fees. This opens up a whole new world of monetization for digital artists.
New blockchain-based platforms are making it easy for collectors to buy shares in fine and high-end artworks and to trade them in increasingly liquid markets. This is opening up new opportunities to participate in the market for masterpieces and to create more diversified high-end art portfolios without the high cost and potential risk of full ownership. Other platforms are using blockchain as a means of recording and sharing cryptographically secure, demonstrably authentic certificates of origin and provenance for artworks and so enable tamper-proof, trustworthy audit trails of the lifecycle of a piece. This is helping to bring more transparency to art markets and is a potent tool to fight fraud. Blockchain is also enabling a new way of interacting directly with artists, creating direct markets between artists and collectors, and paving the way for new forms of patronage.
How does it Work?
These platforms are a good example of the application to the art market of the broader, blockchain-based “tokenization” and digital assets revolution currently disrupting a host of sectors, from finance and healthcare to supply chain and impact investing.
Tokenization is the process of using a blockchain to issue a digital token: a unique string of numbers that can be used as a digital representation of a physical asset. What’s unique about blockchain-based tokens is that they cannot be copied, forged, or – once created – altered in any way. They can also be transferred from one person to another in the digital equivalent of a physical exchange: when someone transfers a token to you over the blockchain, they cannot take it back without your consent.
Using tokens to represent assets on a blockchain, it offers a number of advantages for art collectors:
- Own shares of artwork: For one, it can make the process of securitization much easier and less costly than it is today, involving fewer and sometimes no intermediaries. That, in turn, makes fractional ownership of expensive pieces of art (or any highly valuable item) much more viable than has been in the past. Since blockchain-based digital assets can be easily and securely exchanged without the need to trust a centralized authority, markets in such tokens are generally more transparent and involve far less friction, than markets using traditional intermediaries. That tends to make them easier to access and, as a result, more liquid.
- Verify authenticity and provenance: Because tokens can be used to represent information as well as assets, blockchain-based platforms can allow large groups of people to share trusted data without relying on a central authority. This too can lead to larger, more liquid, and, importantly, more secure and trustworthy online art markets, in which credentials for artworks, artists, buyers, and sellers can be easily authenticated and where transfers of value can be securely carried out directly between parties.
- Protect ‘Digital Picassos’: As blockchain-based tokens are unique and uncopyable, they can be used as the basis for purely digital artworks that cannot be forged and whose ownership can be clearly asserted, maintained and transferred. This can open up new types of art and digital collectible markets. These are not just theoretical exercises. Today, we are seeing a number of LIVE platforms coming online that make use of these capabilities. Some use tokens to create shares in artworks that can be bought and sold online, while others issue tokenized digital certificates for artworks (as well as diamonds and other items) that contain verifiable information about the piece and can be easily transferred along the chain. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. As tokenization matures and goes more mainstream, we can expect more platforms to come online, and more established players to make use of this new technology.
Use-Cases of Blockchain in the Art Industry
- Keeping Digital Art Scarce: Digital art continues to take on a more substantial space in the broader art world. In 2014, the inaugural “Paddles ON!” digital art sale in New York raised $90,600 from 20 works, with one work selling for $16,000. ‘The Arrival of Spring’ is a series of iPad-drawn works by David Hockney that were downloaded, transferred to aluminum pallets, and priced at $28,000 each. And when Cory Arcangel used a modified video game chip to create a moving, projected work of graphic art called ‘Super Mario Cloud’s, he likely did not expect that it would eventually sell privately for $200,000. Each of these instances illustrates the viability of digital art in all of its forms, even forms that have yet to be discovered. Crypto-art projects such as CryptoPunks have shown the potential for the blockchain to maintain the genuine scarcity of digital artworks in an era when the Internet has made scarcity seemingly impossible for most things. These works have been likened to digital trading cards that are 1 of 1 copies. And this blueprint of utilizing blockchain technology and unique digital codes to ensure that art is one of a kind may be the ideal security base to augment the rise in digital art’s popularity.
- Decentralizing Art Exchanges: Online art sales in the United States were estimated to total $4.22 billion in 2017, a 12% rise from the previous year, and a testament to how massive the online art sales industry has become. According to the 2018 Hiscox online art trade report, 74% of online art buyers purchased more than one art object online in the past year, and confidence in online art sales platforms has grown, with the percentage of buyers who paid an average price greater than $5,000 increase from 21% in 2017 to 25% in 2018. There is ample room for blockchain growth beyond the acceptance of cryptocurrencies. Though 60% of online platforms believe that Bitcoin acceptance will be the initial means by which blockchain enters the sphere, only 7% accept crypto as payment, and only 8% have already embedded blockchain technology in their operations.
- Democratizing Fine Art Investment: Even though online art sales grew in 2017, fewer people actually bought art online compared with 2016. This is not a positive trend, especially considering that art can serve as one of the best investments going. When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting ‘Untitled’ was purchased in 1984, the price tag was $20,900. When it was sold again in May 2017, the owner fetched $110.5 million. That’s quite a return for 33 years of investment in a single painting, and while this is obviously one of the most extreme examples of contemporary art’s appreciative value, it is indicative of the industry trends. Contemporary artworks sold during 2016-17 have averaged an annual return of 7.6%, compared with S&P 500’s 6.5% returns going back nearly a half-century. While art returns are far from linear, those looking for a long-term investment in something with tangible investment would not be foolish to consider works of art, whether contemporary or older. However, the art sales industry has often been considered the domain of the ultra-rich, and for good reason. When a single evening auction at Christie’s nets nearly $853 million in total sales, it doesn’t exactly scream blue-collar investors. But by tokenizing art and making it available for purchase in segments, many hope to open the doors of investment to art lovers and shrewd investors who don’t have access to Met Gala attendee-level capital.
- Fair Blockchain Auction Houses: Art auctions are a lucrative racket, and the major players serving as intermediary points of contact between sellers and buyers are tasked with handling lots that routinely fetch millions of dollars. Whether the art being sold is painting, fine china from the Far East or a work of some other form, there is no margin for error when it comes to authenticating a work and its chain of ownership. A single Sotheby’s auction in November of 2018, “Important Chinese Art,” garnered over $9 million in total sales. An “Impressionist and Modern Art” sale by renowned art auction house Christie’s in the same month reaped nearly $280 million in sales, with paintings from Picasso, Dali, and Monet among the works that changed hands in a single evening. Christie’s happens to be one of the leaders pioneering the intersection between blockchain and art auctioneering, as they plan to sell a privately-held collection valued at over $300 million with assistance from the blockchain, which will be relied upon to register and encrypt sales.
- Monetizing Digital Content: The many realms of digital content creation have officially reached diminishing returns, at least in most cases. There are now over 1.8 billion logged-in users accessing YouTube each month, and figures such as these have led many to the not-so-rational conclusion that they should forego their day job, cash out their 401K, and take to performing sketch comedy in front of their webcam on a full-time basis. Even more concerning than adult, YouTube hacks is the scourge of young people aspiring to a career as a YouTube creator. At VidCon, the forum dedicated to digital video personalities that attract around 30,000 people each year, you will find “personalities” such as Alex Wassabi, who has been strutting his stuff as a YouTube creator since he was seven. Perhaps it’s not surprising, based on the unrealistic expectations that one will be the next Jake Paul or Jenna Marbles, that a reported 75% of children aspire to work as a blogger or vlogger. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against them — over 96% of YouTube creators don’t earn enough to rise above the poverty line. On a more encouraging note, merit-based alternative platforms may be on the horizon.
- Decentralized Fundable Street Art: Banksy, perhaps the most well-known street artist of our generation has made a killing off of his thought-provoking, socially critical masterworks. One of his works, ‘Space Girl and Bird’, sold for $479,926 in April 2007. That was just the tip of the iceberg for the mysterious yet prolific visual composer, as art dealer Steve Lazarides said earlier that he is in possession of Banksy pieces he anticipates to sell for at least $2.5 million — and Banksy’s works typically far outearn their projections. Though Banksy will certainly not be turning down the fat checks any time soon, he is a street artist at heart, and auction houses aren’t the venue in which he prefers to peddle his wares. As evidence of this, Banksy was selling original works for as little as $60 in Central Park in 2013. If there were a more secure, feasible means for street artists to connect with a more like-minded audience, it would surely tickle their rebellious, beatnik instincts and ensure that those who end up with their works are willing to come to the place of the art’s origins — the city’s streets — to seek them out.
- Artwork Ownership Provenance: Guaranteeing the chain of ownership for a given work of art goes a long way toward establishing that it is not fake. Such a system would have come in handy for the many victims of Wolfgang Beltracchi, also known as the “Robin Hood of art.” While this moniker may sound flattering, Beltracchi referred to by at least one outlet as the “forger of the century,” is seen in some circles as a genius, in some as a criminal, and in many as a bit of both. He’s made millions peddling some of the most convincing fakes ever to hit the market, and has reveled in visiting the likes of the MoMA and seeing one of his works, signed with the name of the artist, he convincingly imitated. He’s expected to have flooded the market with over 300 paintings over a 35-year forging career, and while he’s now making a more legitimate fortune since deciding to create original works, Beltracchi is the ultimate reminder that systems of provenance in the art sales industry remain wanting.
- Creating Self-Sustaining, Autonomous Works of Art: The ability to give or sustain life is a powerful thing, and the phenomenon is not limited to child-rearing or the garden. As the proliferation of hobbyist technology in the ’90s showed us, and video games like ‘The Sims’ have further illustrated, people can gain satisfaction from acting as caretakers even when the recipient of the care is not a living organism. In 1996, Tamagotchi burst into popular culture, selling more than 40 million units worldwide and more than 11 million in the US and Canada alone. During its peak sales period, 15 Tamagotchis were sold every minute in the shared US-Canada market. In retrospect, Tamagotchis were the “original virtual reality,” and as time has passed, humans’ desire to act as a puppeteer pulling the strings of virtual marionettes has proven lasting. The blockchain is emerging as a means for next-level exploration of the instincts that made the Tamagotchi such a rousing success in the ’90s. Animal lovers, green thumbers, and those who may have taken a liking to Tamagotchi in the ’90s and early 2000s may also find appeal in the concept of autonomous works of art. These works exist in the digital world as software built upon a blockchain-based network, and also as a physical form sculpted by artists funded through blockchain-facilitated contributions to enhance the sculpture.
- Crypto Collectibles: Crypto collectibles have been equated to Beanie Babies for the blockchain. While they fall under the umbrella of digital artwork, they are designed in most cases to be bought, sold, and traded as one would with a baseball card. Crypto collectibles are tied to unique identifiers, which makes them scarce and feeds into the entertainment value associated with purchasing and swapping them — they are truly one of a kind, or at least limited to a defined number. The market for these crypto collectibles has proven to be almost shockingly strong. In fact, one doesn’t need to stretch to explain the crypto-collectibles analogy as it relates to baseball cards. With a starting price of $20 per card, 30 player cards were released during each hour of the sale. Because of the limited quantity of each player’s card, those that sold out were priced higher in the next round of the auction. The creators of virtual baseball cards established a game around the cards, with the end goal being to create a roster comprised of players from the same real-life team.
Ways Blockchain Technology is Changing Art
Here, let’s take a look at the ways blockchain is helping art to change:
- Digitally Produced Art: One segment of the digital art movement focuses on creating art on a computer. This may mean sketching something digitally, photoshopping existing imagery, or representing something in GIF form. These types of art begin life as computer code. Blockchain technology is making this type of art easier to create and authenticate. Many people might even consider blockchain games or blockchain collectibles as types of digitally produced art. Rare Pepes, for instance, has gained cult status as desirable digital art. After all, art is only as valuable as whatever someone is willing to pay.
- Digitally Presented Art: Another branch of the digital art world is art created in the real world, but meant to be presented digitally. There’s a saying in the digital art world, “screens are the new walls.” Moreover, with the rise of high-definition displays, screens can represent artwork with incredibly high fidelity to the original piece.
- Digitally Produced and Presented: Increasingly, art is both digitally produced and presented, offering opportunities for blockchain to secure the entire value cycle of a piece of art. The technology-art divide no longer exists as technology becomes an integral part of creating, displaying, signing, and selling art.
- Cryptocurrency Art Purchases: Another blossoming industry is using cryptocurrency to purchase art. Cryptocurrencies are well suited to these kinds of transactions because they allow you to transfer large stores of value to anyone in the world relatively quickly. There’s no need to wait for banks to authorize the transfer, and no percentage of the transaction goes to the payment processor.
- Blockchain Art Provenance: The applications of blockchain technology in art don’t stop with just digital art. Physical works of art also benefit from blockchain art verification and decentralized marketplaces. One important application is blockchain art provenance, helping art buyers establish a history of previous owners all the way back to the original artist. The benefit of using blockchain is its ledger is immutable and append-only. It would be difficult to forge, fake, or change the provenance of a piece of art once listed on the blockchain. As blockchain enters the art market even for older pieces of art, the technology-art divide closes even further, bringing analog art into the digital age.
- Expanding the Borders of What Art Is: A major side effect of the growth of digital art and the shrinking technology-art divide is an expanding sense of what art could be. Not only are Rare Pepes and CryptoKitties now gaining status as works of art. Anime Coin (ANI) crypto and even MS Paint drawings can now be sold on digital marketplaces. If someone is willing to pay for them, then they have value. These kinds of technology art projects continue to challenge our preconceived notions of what art is supposed to look like.
- Making Art More Affordable: Using blockchain, it’s possible to buy a work of digital art directly from the artist with no middlemen. Consequently, it’s never been cheaper in history to become a collector of art. Right now, you can buy a work of art for less than $10 online. The file you receive would not be a reprint of the original. Instead, it would be an original, verified copy that’s part of a limited run.
- Making Art More Accessible: Traditional art markets are the realm of the elite. They are curated and often cater to the tastes of upper-class westerners. As soon as you digitize art and create blockchain art marketplaces, however, it becomes easier for everyone to access those marketplaces. Any artist can sell to anyone else in the world without a gatekeeper or gallery curator standing in the way.
- Decentralizing Authority to Sell: This trend toward decentralized art sales gives artists and owners power over what to do with their art. Buying and selling art can happen peer-to-peer at rates much faster than traditional art markets. Perhaps you want to buy a piece to display for a week and then resell the piece the next week. With decentralized blockchain art marketplaces, that’s possible. When you sell, you’ll be able to take bids from all over the world. Soon, smart contracts will facilitate the transaction, making sure you receive your funds, the file is transferred to the recipient, and the original no longer exists on your computer.
- Digital Galleries: Art galleries have long been a physical space, and it’s not likely they will go away any time soon. However, the technology-art transition does mean that galleries are increasingly digital. With blockchain art, it’s possible to set up an art marketplace that is a DAO, entirely ownerless, and uses smart contracts to facilitate art trades.
Let’s have a look on some of the artists, who have adopted blockchain and the crypto revolution:
- Nelly Baksht: Nelly Baksht is a Canadian-based crypto artist, who combines fine art with the disruptive possibilities of blockchain technology. Her crypto artworks take technology, weave it with beauty, drape philosophy in romance to present a whole image of something new and incredible.
- Maya Middlemiss: Maya Middlemiss is obsessed with the future and its unevenly-distributed social impact – the future of money, work, technology, and humanity. She is passionate about inclusion and education through effective storytelling and believes all this stuff is far too exciting to leave it to the geeks. She enjoys spinning multiple plates as a journalist, author, podcaster, and remote work advocate, and to recharge offline, she loves hiking and exploring her chosen locale in Eastern Spain.
- Darren Kleine: Darren Kleine is based in Canada. He is fascinated with distributed ledger technology and the widespread implications it has for societal change.
- Paul de Havilland: Paul de Havilland is a fan of disruption in technology, and an active investor in startups. He has experience covering both traditional and emerging asset classes, and also pens columns on politics and the development sector. His passions include violin and opera.
- John Rice: John Rice is the Managing Editor of Cointelegraph Magazine. He sees a sensible degree of decentralization as one of the most compelling needs for human society since the competing ideologies of unfettered communism and capitalism have failed us equally in centralizing power. He also loves to run around Death Valley in a Darth Vader suit.
- Herbert Rafael Sim: Herbert Rafael Sim is a philanthropist, entrepreneur, investor, digital illustrator, and writer. Some might even know him as ‘The Bitcoin Man.” Herbert is currently one of the few verified ‘blue tick’ public figures in the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain industry, across social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Finding Inspiration across the Blockchain
Artist, performer, and speaker, VESA Kivinen, founded ArtForCrypto.com in 2017, which is now rapidly establishing new creative standards in the blockchain art space.
According to VESA, his journey into the blockchain space started ten years ago, when he was involved in creating a documentary film about how the fiat monetary system works. For VESA, this innovated a new pricing system on how to sell art.
“The jump to the blockchain was natural once I understood how many missing solutions it offered for the digital age. However, the real trigger for me happened a couple of years back, during a coffee session with a friend who told me he had become a blockchain investor. He spoke about his progress and how he spent days trying to find a suitable piece illustrating this new world to his office, yet he couldn’t find anything. I quickly realized what an opportunity this was and how it aligned with my values relating to crypto. The next four months consisted of total immersion time, with almost no sleep and feverish research, while creating the first pieces and the ArtForCrypto.com platform. The process inspired one of my pieces entitled ‘Red Eye.’ This movement truly is a vortex that sucks you in once the satoshi drops.”
Likewise, a series of personal experiences also inspired Argentinean-born artist, Nanu Berks, to start creating crypto-themed art.
“I began creating artwork inspired by the decentralization of power back in 2002 and 2008, when the monetary crisis was happening in Argentina. My family had all of our life-savings stolen by the banks and the government. We ended up on the street without jobs, or access to education, food or supplies. I then started to spray-paint the outside of banks and street-walls with messages of freedom and heartfelt rebellion.”
As soon as Nanu was old enough, she began traveling the world, trading murals and offering creativity workshops in exchange for living accommodations. Simply put, Nanu found herself living a very “decentralized” life.
“While my art has always been about consciousness expansion and upcoming systems of decentralization, I started tagging my art as ‘crypto-art’ and ‘blockchain or tech-art’ about three years ago, once I had a better understanding of the technology. I then realized its vocabulary already fit the intention of my work. Oddly enough, nomadic values of a shared and trade/gift economy, line up spectacularly with the idea of tokenization.”
- The Art of Blockchain: The Art of Blockchain is a collection of art objects, in which romanticism and aesthetics of the high-tech world of finance open up. Their exhibit was one of a kind; dark and yet colorful, loud, and yet quiet. The ambiance was unique. As a visitor, you were transported to another world. It offered a creative world in the midst of the blockchain world. The room included art about monopoly and intrigue, incompetence and bribes, egocentrism, greed, fraud, and speculation. And the most interesting is: deep mystical music and blacklight projectors which not only make the letters on the wall glow but also the white shirts on the visitors. On Blockshow Asia 2018, many exciting startups had a chance to present themselves and their ideas. Even though each of them had a fascinating story to tell, four stood out for being innovative, creative, and simply different.
- Honeybox: The Honeybox personal internet security device is a consumer electronics product that plugs into your existing Ethernet-enabled router to block promotional, irrelevant, and malicious content from ever loading on your network across all connected devices such as your PC, your phone, or the smart TV. The native HNY token is used to authenticate secure data packets over the blockchain, and to incentivize consumers for use. The device can be bought for around 60 US-Dollars. If one would want to remove the blocking, they receive Honeybox’s currency in exchange. Its token is called HNY and is a stellar token; an open-source, decentralized protocol for digital currency to fiat currency transfers which allows cross-border transactions between any combination of cryptocurrencies. In other words, HNY is cheaper, faster, and can do one thousand operations per second. The tokens are an added layer to this secure network. Honeybox contains an ever-growing “blacklist” that allows you to manage access yourself. In that sense, it is not classical. The best thing about this device is that it enables every consumer to control which ads, viruses, or spying software should be listed on the blacklist and which shouldn’t. Moreover, one can self-manage who from this blacklist can have access to their device. It is thus very consumer-friendly.
- Blockchain Cuties: Blockchain Cuties is the new collectible crypto game with adventures where you get to play with puppies, lizards, bear cubs, cats, and other real and fantasy creatures alike. You can collect them, breed them, test their skills in battles, arm them, and even level them up. Each cutie, which is an ERC-721 token, can be transferred or sold to other players just like a regular cryptocurrency. Moreover, each cutie is unique. Founded in December 2017 in Latvia, Blockchain Cuties was inspired by CryptoKitties and the like. The founders themselves come from a classical background of game development. Coming from this background, they have realized that there is more to traditional games. Community Manager of Blockchain Cuties, Max Ksen, said: “CryptoKitties made obvious that people play crypto games!” After buying the pet, players can choose to play without making further payments. They can level up without losing or gaining money. On the other hand, they can combine fun with business and earn financial gain by leveling up or selling pets. If they do choose to sell them, the Blockchain Cuties receive 4% dividends.
What is CryptoArt?
CryptoArt is a rare digital artwork, sometimes described as digital trading cards or “rares”, associated with unique and provably rare tokens that exist on the blockchain. The concept is based on the idea of digital scarcity, which allows you to buy, sell, and trade digital goods as if they were physical goods. This system works due to the fact that, like Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, CryptoArt exists in limited quantity. Popular early examples include CryptoKitties, CryptoPunks, Rare Pepe, CurioCards, and Dada.nyc.
Let’s find some of the common factors that have shaped the aesthetic and community thus far:
- Digitally Native: For the first time, artwork can be created, editioned, bought, and sold digitally.
- Geographically Agnostic: Empowered by the Internet, artists participate from all over the world. CryptoArt is the first truly global art movement.
- Democratic/Permissionless: Everyone is encouraged to participate regardless of skills, training, class, gender, race, age, creed, etc.
- Decentralized: Tools and guidelines are designed to reduce the power of gatekeepers and middlemen and increase the autonomy of artists.
- Anonymous: Use of pseudonyms allows artists to create and sell art while staying anonymous (if preferred), freeing them from social judgment.
- Memetic: CryptoArt are often literally memes valued for their ability to spread quickly. What’s the difference? The “Meme Economy” is now a reality.
- Self-Referential: CryptoArtists often play with references to key events and personalities within cryptocurrency and blockchain culture.
- CryptoPatrons: CryptoArt is collected by the CryptoRich: a group of savvy technologists and investors who got into cryptocurrency early.
- Pro-Artist: Blockchain platforms often take little to no commission from artists. Artists are often remunerated for every future sale of a single work.
- Dankness: Because CryptoArt is open to everyone, judging it by traditional artistic standards kills what is great about it. Instead, it is best to judge CryptoArt by “dankness” or potency of expression and creativity.
What is BitchCoin?
BitchCoin is a photography-backed digital currency. Founded by Sarah Meyohas in 2015, the project was said to be a natural manifestation of the New York-based artist’s central interests, which she characterized as “how you create value, what value is, and what value means,” along with how value could be represented. One BitchCoin, sold for $100, is worth 25-square-inches of any one of Meyohas’s photographic prints, including those that have not yet been produced. It has been analyzed that when you purchase one BitchCoin, you receive a certificate with an encrypted number, which can be redeemed at any time for a physical artwork. Purchasing a complete print requires 25 BitchCoins, which comes to $2,500, but any print can be exchanged in the future for another print.
Like any market, the BitchCoin market will fluctuate over time, and the currency could come to be worth much more—or much less—depending on Meyohas’s future success as an artist, which is the point of the project. Meyohas said that she would eventually like to create an exchange or hold an auction to determine the future value of BitchCoin.
How Digital Artists Use Blockchain?
Following its inception, blockchain technology quickly found an application in the art sector, making art objects more accessible while changing methods and approaches to their creation and perception. This gave new opportunities for collectors, art galleries, museums, art brokers and artists.
Blockchain in Auction Houses and Online Sales
The AllPublicArt platform was launched in 2015 and aims to expand online art sales, as “the online art market is growing at an annual rate of 24% and is expected to reach $9.58 billion by 2020,” according to the insurance company Hiscox Ltd. After registration, each author can publish their works in exchange for APA tokens and independently represent their interests on the market.
In November 2018, The British auction house Christie’s made history with the pilot launch of a blockchain-based encryption and registration service for pieces of art. This was done in New York during the auction of the Barney Ebsworth collection. The auction house partnered with art registration service Artory to prepare a digital certificate for the sale of $300 million worth of art. This art sale included works by Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper.
Art Foundations and Blockchain Charity
The Foundation for Art and Blockchain was created to disseminate information about art and blockchain technology. Its mission is to support artists who respond to one of the most monumental technologies of the century — blockchain. The foundation was launched in May 2018 by Codex Protocol and Rare Art Labs, in conjunction with Ethereal Summit, and was the auction that sold the world’s most expensive CryptoKitties and other works of blockchain-based art.
The first project supported by the foundation was the Dogethereum Bridge, a public art initiative that promotes collaboration between communities and technology.
Companies using Blockchain to Transform Art Industry
- FRESCO: FRESCO is a Swiss “trust distribution platform” for artists, dealers, and art organizations. Their trust token distribution mechanism is called the FRESCO Protocol, and it lets users assign FRES tokens to each artwork, representing the potential value of the work assigned anonymously by the owner and the community. The platform’s communal aspect is enabled by FRES Cash, which lets members of the community assign their own assets to other works. In doing so, they lend credibility to a work’s value beyond the owner appraisal.
- Artory: The Artory registry tracks provenance for art and other collectibles using a blockchain ledger to make sure that custody chains are authentic and tamper-proof. The registry provides security and anonymity for buyers and collectors. It simultaneously assures prospective buyers that they have all the accurate information they need before making a purchase decision.
- Verisart: Verisart is a blockchain platform that helps users create secure digital certificates for art and collectibles. Using the blockchain, they can bind these works to detailed provenance records. They aim to create more tamper-proof certificates of authenticity and ownership to reduce fraud and protect legitimate art exchanges.
- Blockchain Art Collective: Blockchain Art Collective is a growing movement of artists using the blockchain to verify a work of art’s origin, authenticity, and journey. They do this by creating certificates of authenticity using blockchain technology and make that data available to all relevant parties. Their goal is to give art a “digital life,” and they hope to improve the market for artists and art buyers alike.
- Ink Labs Foundation: The Singapore-based Ink Labs Foundation uses blockchain technology to ensure that artists have access to quicker intellectual property protection, and barrier-free communication with potential customers, which is often lacking in the street and non-auction house art communities. Their Credible Sovereign Consortium Chain is a basic blockchain network for the art industry, while their Cultural Assets Trading Platform is responsible for the exchange of IP information, as well as work done by professional artwork and talent scouts.
- YAIR — Your Art is Reality: Berlin-based YAIR — Your Art is Reality — is creating a marketplace of digital works secured by the blockchain. By tokenizing each artwork and limiting the token supply, the works maintain a scarcity that increases their value behind the subjective magnetism and appeal of the works themselves. As the YAIR team says, “The art is the token. The token is the product. The product is art.”
- DADA: Brooklyn-based DADA is a social network for art enthusiasts to connect with each other. Artists who use DADA are encouraged to collaborate with others in bringing a creation to life, and when the work becomes reality, the platform serves as a blockchain-powered marketplace where artists can sell their works using smart contracts. Collectors receive proof of ownership for the work upon purchase.
- Adappcity, Inc.: Adappcity is a decentralized application (DApp) development company. Their aim is to “identify and develop blockchain solutions that are socially and economically valuable.” Their first project is called UppstArt, and it’s touted as the first decentralized marketplace for physical artwork to be built upon blockchain technology. A portion of each sale is directly transferred to the artist — many see a model like UppstArt as the future of art sales.
- Maecenas: Maecenas is a decentralized platform for the artwork auction and exchange. They offer several solutions to art markets. One of the most notable is their fundraising model, which helps galleries and auction houses crowdsource money for new art acquisitions. They also tokenize valuable paintings to let investors purchase shares in them.
- Scarab Experiment: Scarab is a decentralized art project that creates a work of art using an algorithmic imaging process for every 1,000 artworks submitted. It’s a test of community-driven blockchain projects, using art as a medium to demonstrate the blockchain’s potential to unite people around a common goal.
- Portion: Portion aims to create an ecosystem that replaces traditional auction house models, with a more decentralized approach that relies on blockchain-powered provenance and cryptocurrency payments. Their aim is to bridge the gaps between art, luxury goods, and crypto.
- Plantoid: According to the founders, a Plantoid is the “plant equivalent of an android; it is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look, act, and grow like a plant.” Plantoids are physical sculptures whose existence is sustained through cryptocurrency donations. They are an appealing application of blockchain-powered crowdfunding for public works of art.
Art in the Commerce Sector
The contemporary art realm is plagued with corruption, money laundering, and theft. Evading tax obligations by purchasing a piece of art by the rich is not a novel concept either. Numerous “prestige” galleries and institutions along with wealthy collectors have made art a vehicle for their money laundering schemes.
The Independent had reported that at least 20 percent of the paintings held by major museums across the US, some up on the walls and many others in the vaults, are fake.
Art is Changing
Visual art is difficult to define, precisely because it’s always changing. Artists are constantly pushing the limits of what’s possible. Those limits have expanded into the realm of digital art, which exists as a file on a computer and not in the physical world. This transition blurs the technology-art divide even further.
Opinions on Blockchain Art
Pascal Boyart, the Paris-based artist, who has affixed a Bitcoin QR code to his mural paintings for donations, said:
“Taking back power of the middlemen is a good thing for creativity. Art needs more freedom and cryptos can bring some financial freedom for the artists who want to innovate. It can help artists to have a more direct relation with the people who love art and it can bring more horizontality in the business of art.”
Khaled FEKI, the Director and Founder of Epsilon Artshare, and the French entrepreneur, whose expertise lies in fractional ownership business models, said:
“The overwhelming benefit of fractional art ownership is purely financial: it’s an investment that needs to compete on a numbers level with the stock market and other investment avenues. Fractional ownership democratizes art investment, not art ownership but it is only attractive if the platform allows its investors to make money.”
Sukhi Jutla, the Co-founder and COO at MarketOrders, said:
“Then, there is the lack of homogeneity between different artworks, which makes it difficult to value and price a fraction of the artwork; this may lead to buyers questioning if it’s really worth the investment.”
Adriano Picinati di Torcello, the Global Art and Finance Director of Deloitte, said:
“The future of fractional ownership could be bright, but a certain number of challenges need to be overcome to make it mainstream.”
Sergey Gordienko, the artist and founder of MTSG Art, the notion of decentralization inspired a series of his crypto-themed creations, said:
“I created my first piece of cryptoart in early 2017, before the hype. I remember one evening I accidently watched a documentary film about bitcoin and blockchain technology. The decentralization idea completely blew my mind. I was so inspired and excited that for a couple of months that I stopped working on my other projects to focus solely on crypto art. I knew that this movement would change our life and society, and I wanted to tell everyone about it. I then created e-commerce website called Bit Gift Shop, where people could purchase t-shirts with my original cryptoart designs using cryptocurrency.”
“For at least 6,000 years, kings and governments have controlled the money supply for people. The launch of bitcoin started the separation of money and state. It will soon be natural that we have various digital coins. Also, bitcoin does not require only humans to participate, as crypto will be the natural choice of AI when it starts autonomously trading online. What all that means for the trading markets is impossible to say at this point, but seeing the development of bitcoin and other self-programming military AI innovations, it is likely to be foundational for the whole system. We’ve already seen AI art being sold at Christie’s for significant sums. The piece “HELLO’ refers to our current and emerging reality – AI is already among us, and it is saying hello.”
Nanu Berks said:
“Early on I focused on messages of freedom from breaking down the current financial system, yet I quickly felt seduced and intrigued by the symbology in all things tech. I am interested in the social impact that visual/experiential art can have on us for mass-adoption. We make art to store our memories and design who we become, to share our identity and knowledge with each other. I hope with my creations I can pass on the remembering to honor our nature, trust in our intuition, and build systems that empower a wholesome future. Additionally, most of my work has the signature detail of a made up language of equations with a dyslexic style mixing numbers as letters and crypto symbols to spell out encrypted messages within the work. I also often use upcycled materials in my work, including old world-wide currency and computer parts.”
While blockchain is best known as a digital, immutable ledger, some are viewing the technology as inspiration for a new medium of artwork inspired by Bitcoin, systems of decentralization and financial freedom.
The blockchain will allow greater oversight into specific art pieces, documenting their ownership and transfer history on an immutable ledger to minimize the chance that fakes enter the legitimate marketplace. And with the development of phenomena such as micro-investments and purchases, some envision a future in which the blockchain can imbue art collection with a measure of democratization that it currently lacks.
The website where you can buy art is: https://cryptoart.com/
Cover Image: Pixabay