How is cryptocurrency fueling art?

February 04, 2019
Darya Karatkevich

Art and cryptocurrency are closely related.

Art can be used to make a statement, it can be provocative, causing those who look at it to change their views on a certain subject. Art is subjective, as the value of a piece can change from person to person — one painting might be worth $100, while another may be worth millions.

Cryptocurrencies aren’t much different. The value of cryptocurrencies changes over time, one cryptocurrency may be worth more than another. Given the similarities, it comes as no surprise that there is a merging between the two.

Kevin Abosch

One of the most prolific cryptocurrency-focused artists, Kevin Abosch, first made headlines after he sold Potato #345 for €1 million, making it the 15th most expensive photo ever sold.

The sale made quite an impact on Abosch. In an interview with Independent, Abosch described the shift that occurred after the sale, saying,

“The focus shifts from the artistic value to monetary value of the work — and for most artists the art is an extension of the artist, so you yourself start to feel commodified…”

Artists put a piece of themselves into their works, so when a piece is sold, so is a portion of the artist. This new form of thinking caused Abosch to put the camera down for a while and begin using a different medium, cryptocurrencies. IAMA Coin, a series created by Abosch, involves six vials of his blood and 10 million virtual tokens. By using his own blood, Abosch stamped the wallet address of his tokens onto 100 pieces of paper. He believes he now has a connection with the virtual world — in a sense, you would have to agree with him.


Mixed media artist VESA is making quite a name for himself in the cryptocurrency art world. His work can be viewed at Art for Crypto, and even purchased if you are willing to spend $50,000 or at least the equivalent in bitcoin, Ether, or Litecoin.

Many of his works are related to cryptocurrencies, as shown by such titles as I am Satoshi Nakamoto, Silk Road, Fork and Flip, and many more. He signs his pieces using the codex protocol, a blockchain system used to authenticate each piece. By allowing customers to buy his work with cryptocurrencies, VESA increases his chances of making a sale. It is a tactic being used by many in the art world, with a number of galleries worldwide adopting the use of cryptocurrencies.

How cryptocurrency is helping galleries?

Ato, a gallery based in New York, conducted the largest sale of art using cryptocurrencies in 2018. 150 bitcoin, equivalent to $1.25 million at the time, was used to purchase Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights, a piece created by Benjamin Katz. Katz’s previous works sold between $5,000 – $100,000, so the buyer offering $1.25 million came as a surprise. Nonetheless, Katz and Ato agreed to go through with the sale. By using Instagram, an encryption-based messaging service Signal, and Postmates, the buyer was able to purchase the piece without ever having to reveal his identity. To this day, the buyer remains unknown. Ato has embraced cryptocurrencies since the purchase, and currently sells various works for cryptocurrency on their website.

“14 Small Electric Chairs,” a piece by famed pop artist Andy Warhol, was auctioned off by art platform, Maecenas. 800 bidders placed various bids via smart contracts, with 31.5% of the painting ultimately being sold for $1.7 million. Owning a portion of a piece of art entitles you to a cut when it is put in galleries or museums. If the piece is sold, you get a cut of the profit as well. By selling shares of works, galleries can gain income without having to get rid of a specific piece.

Hong Kong-based Whitestone Gallery developed its own Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in order to fund the expansion of its gallery. Its token, WHS, is similar to that of any ICO’s token, but in a different setting. Instead of providing returns, WHS gives its owners things like discounts for purchasing art, or presents from the gallery.

There is a future for cryptocurrencies in art

Cryptocurrency and art go hand in hand so well because they both require a bit of craziness at times. The first investors of cryptocurrencies were considered crazy by many back when the idea of ridding the world of banks through a decentralized digital currency seemed insane. Yet, all these years later, cryptocurrencies are still around.

Cryptocurrency users are considered to be more creative by definition, not only trading and investing in crypto, but also creating art pieces featuring it — from bitcoin music videos to paintings and other art. Abosch uses cryptocurrency and its ideas to make interesting art pieces commenting on society, while Ato is using cryptocurrencies to strengthen its business. Whatever approach artists and galleries adopt, cryptocurrency fuels art, transmitting a forward-thinking message to the society.

Post written by Darya Karatkevich
Darya is a blockchain market observer with 5+ years of experience as an author and editor for major tech blogging platforms. Her fortes are blockchain technologies and solutions, cryptocurrencies and crypto-related regulations.

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