As topics of discussion go, the often disparate fields of art and technology rarely share the same breath, but at the cutting edge of the blockchain, the two have found a host of exciting new ways to come together. This is the place where the traditional art market finds itself disrupted, augmented, digitised and in some cases utterly transformed.
While blockchain technology and art might appear to be as opposite as the yin and yang of Taoist philosophy, they have found the way to travel upon the same path. Together they are taking in a diverse series of locations and landscapes on a truly global scale. I invite you to join me on this journey as we visit six (and a half) projects disrupting how we think about, consume and interact with art. Together we’ll see everything from artists to art markets, tokens and tokenization, riddles and games — and we’ll explore beyond even the three dimensions of our own universe.
Oh, just one thing before we set off: please remember to keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times.
We begin this tour with ArtPro, an art provenance platform focused on creating a peer-to-peer marketplace. Whereas most art projects still work according to an outmoded system that includes auction houses, galleries and other intermediaries, ArtPro is a mobile app and online market where artists and buyers can directly connect, cutting out the middleman and lowering costs.
Using a number of novel technologies, ArtPro looks like a genuine disruptor, aiming to lower the barriers to entry with an affordable art investment fund and by educating buyers. In a press release, CEO Oliver Hams explained the goal of the project:
“Art should be for the many, not the few. With ArtPro we’re bringing art to the masses, allowing more people than ever before to invest in and own a piece of fine art.”
Another eye-catching aspect of the ArtPro project is their plan to use an Augmented Reality (AR) smartphone app to allow prospective buyers to view any piece of art that is for sale on the ArtPro platform in a real world space of their choosing. And talking of AR, that leads us nicely to our next destination.
When it comes to the confluence of AR, art and blockchain, one name which instantly stands out is Trevor Jones. The Scottish-Canadian artist has recently announced a cryptocurrency inspired exhibition, ‘DISRUPTION: The Art of Blockchain’, which will feature 14 large paintings ‘fuelled’ with augmented reality. If you look now you can see a video which shows the technology in action.
Bitcoin.com quotes Jones as stating that:
“The last 7 years I’ve been focused on creating innovative art that pushes formal boundaries and adds to the creative knowledge set, that challenges and perhaps even threatens the status quo, and that encourages people to question what a painting can actually be. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are doing similar things with fiat and the financial sector. It made sense to me to try to tie this all together and explore the notion of a crypto themed exhibition.”
For those based in Scotland, the upcoming exhibition will be from 22nd-26th October at Dundas Street Gallery in Edinburgh. Don’t worry, we’ll have you home long before then.
Telling the story of the Ethereum blockchain in a series of 9,895 paintings, each CryptoArte canvas holds 576 individual blocks of shapes, colors, decorations. The project is the brainchild of technology entrepreneur Sebastián Brocher — an architect by trade rather than artist. However, the resulting images have a kind of hypnotic beauty to them, especially when viewed in sequence. With each block miner having its own unique symbol, it is possible to chart how frequently miners have discovered each new block. The result is an artistic and visually beautiful archive of the history of the Ethereum network.
One of the neat tricks of CryptoArte is that it allows you to find paintings created from the Ethereum blockchain on a particular date of your choosing. If you’d like to have a painting which represents your birthday or an anniversary, it is very easily found. The day you first received ETH? No problem. Just take a look at some of the works which the CryptoArte project has produced so far.
Our next stop is Neon District, the latest project from bitcoin artist and serial frustration merchant YT, otherwise known by her twitter handle @coin_artist. YT’s most famous foray into the world of blockchain art was TORCHED H34R7S, a blockchain painting-come-puzzle with a prize of 5 BTC for finding the solution. Launched in 2015, it took three years until a solution was found by which time the prize fund was worth $50,000.
Now YT is back with another project blending art, blockchain, puzzles and RPG gaming in the form of Neon District.
Although Neon District has yet to fully launch, it is already causing much anticipation within the crypto community which is no less than we’d expect from this tricky crypto-puzzler.
The Maecenas project is grounded in a common theme among cryptocurrency projects, allowing investors to tokenize and buy shares in assets. In this particular case the assets are famous paintings. The result is a stock market of sorts within the art world.
Maecenas recently made news with their first auction selling a 31.5% stake in Andy Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs. The tokenized auction successfully raised $1.7 million USD by breaking the ownership of painting into tamper-proof certificates of ownership recorded on the blockchain. In a press release, Marcelo Garcia Casil, CEO of Maecenas, said:
“Tokenization of assets is the most prominent and exciting use case of blockchain technology, and we’re proud to be pioneers in this space. This Warhol painting is the first of many more to come and we are looking forward to seeing and leading the financial revolution for the art market.”
Our final stop is Decentraland, a virtual reality world of possibilities built on the Ethereum blockchain. In this virtual reality platform, users are able to buy plots of virtual land and create almost anything they desire. Purchased using MANA tokens, the virtual land is then completely in their control. Although Dentraland is yet to go fully live, it will be accessible and explorable via mobile, web browser, or VR headset.
Fascinatingly, Decentraland will allow for different zones such as Festival Land, the University and the Museum. In the virtual reality Museum, visitors will be able to view artworks, attend VR art events and buy and sell real artwork which can be delivered to your (non-virtual) home address. According to the Decentraland wiki, the vision for the Museum is as follows: “We want to build the main Museum Experience in Decentraland. Showcasing art we curate, inviting curators, and renting a Gallery or Experience Modules to anyone interested in showcasing their creations”.
In Decentraland it will be fully possible to interact with art in a completely simulated world hosted on the blockchain.
Which brings us to…
And a Half
…just a little further.
It is believed that the eventual heat death of our Universe will occur in 10¹⁰⁰⁰ years — give or take a few — and that everything that ever existed will simply cease to exist. Another theory states that the Universe is itself just another simulation, possibly much like Decentraland. From the inside there is simply no way to tell. If that is the case, perhaps there will be no heat death after all; the hash of the Universe will simply be solved and another Universe will be added to the chain.
It’s possible that our reality is simply a cosmic art project in a celestial simulation, hosted on the canvas of an ever-growing blockchain. So before our tour ends you might want to read that last sentence again, if you’re really reading it at all.
You can follow Robert D. Knight on Twitter @redcryptoknight