Artists as cryptofinanciers: welcome to the blockchain

The Art Newspaper | Ben Luke

Art Basel is this year opening its doors to blockchain, the revolutionary technology behind cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether. Art Basel’s Conversations programme includes Blockchain and the Art World, a group discussion on 14 June that features the leading digital artist Simon Denny, among others. On 13 June, a conference called Basel ArtTech+Blockchain Connect, organised by the New Art Academy with Forbes, is taking place at Messe Basel.

Much of the focus on blockchain’s application within the cultural sphere has focused on its role in markets—it is, after all, fundamentally a financial creation. Ruth Catlow, the co-director of the London-based art and technology organisation Furtherfield, is one of the authors of a new book, Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain (Torque Editions and Furtherfield). In her introduction, she writes that “one of the most important and hard-to-grasp characteristics of the blockchain is the way it puts finance, or its mechanisms, at the heart of every action in the digital domain”.

One might surmise that artists would therefore find it uninspiring—but no. Rob Myers, one of the early adopters of blockchain as an artistic tool, has written: “The ideology and technology of the blockchain and the materials of art history—especially the history of conceptual art—can provide useful resources for mutual experiment and technique.” Catlow says that the area of blockchain she finds particularly fascinating is “artists as crypto- financiers”. She explains: “Blockchain has arisen at the same time as art has become a certain kind of asset class. And these things are emerging at the same time, so we’re seeing artists who are thinking very carefully about capital, about art and the way it relates to people as a commodity and as a financial entity.”…read more

Image: CryptoKitties