Artists have always felt at home on the cutting edge. When you look at how art has changed, from pigment splashed on cave walls to internet memes that replicate across the web millions of times, it’s clear the only limit to artistic expression is the human imagination itself. If something appears confusing or strange, it’s only because artists are always a few steps ahead of the rest of us.
It’s no surprise then that the art world has proven to be an early and enthusiastic proponent of cryptocurrency and the blockchain. Not only is the latter benefiting collectors, galleries, and museums; but artists themselves are beginning to use the technology as a medium.
Power to the Artists
Thanks to the blockchain, artists have a level of control over their digital work that’s been absent from the beginning. Using a platform like Curio Cards, artists can create ‘cards’, or small pieces of digital art, and sell them directly to the consumer without third party fees.
Each card is represented by an address recorded on the blockchain, ensuring any transaction is permanent and that the consumer is the sole owner of the art in question.
While these cards may seem playful to most, not ‘serious art’ at all, their underlying principle has profound ramifications to notions of authenticity, value, and ownership.
Perhaps the most important feature of a service like Curio Cards is the concept of ‘digital scarcity’. Obviously, the value of digital art suffers from its infinite replicability. You can copy and paste any image that’s online with an ease that simply doesn’t apply to physical works of art.
But thanks to the permanent and unalterable nature of the blockchain, a work of digital art can now lay claim to the same aura of uniqueness as a Picasso. This benefits the creator, who now has control over the spread of their own work, as well as bringing transparency into the collector’s market, where fraud and inauthenticity have long run roughshod.
Clamping down on Forgeries
More than other asset classes, art has suffered from a lack of safeguards against forgery. The blockchain can remedy this by creating a permanent record of transactions. No longer is a collector forced to trust the word of a powerful gallery or auction house on a piece’s authenticity, nor must they risk being defrauded by an individual seller who may be shopping a forgery.
Companies like Ascribe and Binded are leveraging the blockchain to create a record of each piece of art that tells us who the artist is, how many times and to whom the artwork has been sold, and the value of each of those transactions.
Access to the Art Market
Amateurs have long found it difficult, if not outright impossible, to break into the art collecting world. The sums are staggering, with a Leonardo Da Vinci painting of dubious quality and provenance recently going to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for a cool $450 million at auction.
Maecenas is seeking to lower this barrier of entry by allowing any individual to invest in art. Using the platform’s own ART token as well as other cryptocurrencies, one can buy as much or as little of a piece of art as they wish.
Galleries, art owners, and private collectors can also list their holdings on the service, and it’s possible that in the future true masterpieces will be available to buy. Consider – one day you may own your very own share of a Leonardo Da Vinci.
Art as Crypto
The relationship of art to crypto isn’t limited to buying and selling. The artist Kevin Abosch recently took things a step farther, drawing on many of the uses of the blockchain outlined above to make art that was itself cryptocurrency.
Abosch created a unique digital photograph of a rose (poetically dubbed ‘The Forever Rose’) and sold it in the form of a ROSE token, a single alt-coin that was purchased by ten collectors at a total price of $1 million USD. While merely a proof of concept for ‘crypto art’ (all proceeds were donated to charity), expect to see much more of this fusion of creativity and technology.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that the art world has struck up a relationship with the blockchain. Both thrive on the bleeding edge, where paradigms are meant to be challenged, and the idea of what is possible is relentlessly changed for the better.
And though this article concerns how the blockchain is revolutionizing the art world, the influence cuts both ways, and perhaps the day will come when we see the blockchain used by artists in ways that transcend anything we ever imagined.