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CryptoArt – the Eclectic Future of Modern Art?


Photo by ETC / Public Domain

Throughout modern history, contemporary visual arts have been a sphere through which artists and creatives reflect on and discuss the era in which they are living. As technology embeds itself further into our daily lives, artists are becoming increasingly inspired to both portray innovations using traditional mediums and create new, virtual experiences. In fact, these advances in technology – specifically cryptocurrency and blockchain – are inspiring a growing number of visual artists to the point where a new sub-sector has emerged; that of ‘CryptoArt’.

A Bitcoin puzzle 

Marguerite deCourcelle was the first artist to publicly release a crypto-inspired piece, which contained a Bitcoin puzzle at its heart. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’, TORCHED H34R7S seemed at first glance like a conventional painting. However, it held coded pieces of information within its canvas that, when decoded, would release the key to a private Bitcoin wallet containing 5 coins. In true 21st Century style, back in 2015 the buzz surrounding the painting was high, however the enthusiasm began to wane a few months later as the code remained uncrackable. It took 3 years for the puzzle to eventually be solved and the Bitcoins (worth $50,000) were swiped by a 30-year old anonymous programmer. 

Following a similar vein, Kevin Abosch’s famous ‘Stealing The Contents of This Wallet Is A Crime’, created as part of his ‘I AM A COIN’ project, also contained hidden cryptocurrency. This time, a total of 10 million ERC-20 ‘IAMA’ coins were created by the artist and 100 of them were “stored in” the painting. On the right side of courting controversy, Abosch chose to publicly display the painting until all the coins were stolen.

From the auction houses to the streets

As exciting as these publicly released artworks are, CryptoArt is also beginning to cause a stir in the world of art connoisseurs. Renowned crypto artist cryptograffiti has recently seen two of his works fetch big money at auction. Based on the famous LOVE work by Robert Indiana, cryptograffiti released a series of serigraphs printed on “used central bank” money bags, which proclaimed HODL instead of the aforementioned emotion. A single serigraph went for $8,000 at auction to collector Mike Novogratz.

At a seperate auction, another cryptograffiti piece entitled ‘Terrible Store of Value’, which depicted a disintegrating Jamie Dimon (of JP Morgan fame) and mirrors “the public’s trust towards traditional banking institutions”, went for an impressive $33,000. Even Terry Cook’s comparatively simple cryptocurrency symbol paintings are going down well at auction. The British artist, who believes that it’s “natural that art and blockchain technology intersect”, sold his Ethereum work at auction for just shy of $3,000 earlier this year.


Bitcoin is a powerful symbol for today’s urban artists

Photo by duncan c / CC BY-NC 2.0


Cryptocurrency may well be influencing high-priced collectable artworks, but it’s also having a dramatic impact on the streets. Urban artists are frequently inspired by the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency, particularly how it acts as a symbol for financial freedom and equanimity. Popular Instagrammer ‘thisisludo’ is just one of many street and graffiti artists who are sharing their creativity in public for free.

A global impact

Within a relatively short amount of time, cryptocurrencies and their accompanying Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies have had a big impact on global industries. Online gaming is one of the sectors that has truly embraced the potential of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Led by brands such as Cloudbet, there are now many iGaming platforms and online casinos that accept cryptocurrency as a method of payment, particularly due to the increased levels of security that virtual coins can offer. In fact, the casino industry as a whole is becoming much more open to utilising cryptocurrency; Even if Macau overtook Las Vegas as the world´s top gaming destination, this last city still leads the run on the application of this technology, and the casinos that accept cryptocurrencies have reported increased revenues in non-gaming activities.

Cryptocurrency is a hot topic everywhere, with cities and states in every continent competing to be their region’s own ‘crypto hub’, and this is certainly the case in Cleveland Ohio. As part of the state’s attempt “to grow a blockchain ecosystem in Cleveland”, the Great Lakes Science Center recently hit the news for becoming the third noted museum in the States to readily accept Bitcoin as a method of payment (alongside the Texas Museum of the Coastal Bend and Florida’s St. Petersburg Museum of History).

The arts, then, are playing as important a role in the widespread acceptance and adoption of cryptocurrency as they are in immortalizing its impact for future generations. If increased understanding of these technologies is key to their integration, art is the perfect medium through which to do so.



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