Art riding the bitcoin bandwagon
Review by Farah Dianputri

Chances are you or a handful of your friends have contemplated taking a ride on the bitcoin bandwagon. A few weeks ago a friend sent me a Medium article populated with subheadings of what bitcoin is: among these headings were “Bitcoin is Ariadne”, “Bitcoin is Gravity”, and my personal favorite “Bitcoin is Halal”. Another friend recounted tunneling into the niche of bitcoin TikTok. As cryptocurrency seems to be merging into our collective cultural imagination, it’s no surprise that there is a thriving subset of digital arts catering to it: non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and/or cryptoart.

On March 3, 2021, a YouTube video was posted of a Banksy being burnt1. So, what does that have to do with cryptoart?

Even a casual observer to the art world might recall Banksy shredding his work at auction once before (at the time I was helping to compose a page of one-line reviews from art history students2, which is still my favourite piece of layout design I’ve done.) But this time the culprit was a decentralised finance group called Injective Protocol, out to prove that they could destroy a piece of art and transfer it into a token with exceptional value, and inject trust into NFTs.

Injective Protocol burning Banksy’s Morons(White), 2006, filmed on 3rd March 2021, image courtesy ofhttps://news.artnet.com/art-world/financial-traders-burned-banksy-nft-1948855

In the shredded Banksy case, a piece that was worth US$1.4mil was worth double after it was shredded3. A simple reason why is because there are more Banksy prints than shredded Banksy prints on auction. It’s scarcity and novelty combined. I see most cryptoart as doing a similar thing. It’s a way of creating scarcity in digital art.

When you typically create a piece of digital art, it can be replicated endlessly without losing quality. However, by minting your art on the blockchain you could ensure that you can be a sole owner of a piece of digital art through a unique token. This token is non-fungible, it's a representation of a digital “object” rather than a value.

As I’m writing this, a historic auction has taken place in Christie’s. The crypto artist Beeple has sold his NFT, “Everydays: The First 5000 days” for US$69.3mil. It’s reported to be the highest price that a purely NFT based artwork has gone on auction and has positioned him as “one of the three most valuable living artists”4.

I find it difficult to reconcile the Janus-faced promise of NFTs. At once it’s a promising autonomy and an alternative channel for artists to sell their works away from the established art market. On the other hand, it seems like decentralised finance just runs in parallel, not in opposition to




The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Farah Dianputri is a writer under the CENDANA-ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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