Crypto: Art, Currency, and Capital

Title: Crypto: Art, Currency, and Capital
Authors: Aluma-Baigent, Alia
Date: 2021
Abstract: In 2021 a digital file sold for $69 million US dollars, shocking everyone within the art world, and those unfamiliar with the intricate happenings of primary and secondary digital markets (Davis; Woodham, 60). This file was composed of a collection of digital images that had been attached to form a single JPEG, of which the URL was impeded into a non-fungible token and sold solely for compensation in cryptocurrency. The event sparked a frenzy of new artists in the digital space hoping to become millionaires. While this sale initiated what artists and critics are referring to as the Wild West of digital art, NFTs sales date back to 2015, with the rise of Ether and the Ethereum blockchain - currently the only blockchain equipped to store NFTs because it supports digital contracts built of metadata (Rothstein, 194). The merge between art and cryptocurrency is a recent phenomenon, with the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies being up for debate since the many failed attempts in the 90s and early 2000s. However, the mysterious introduction of Bitcoin in 2011 by an anonymous creator would eventually lead to a collection of crypto billionaires by the end of the decade. All of them desperate for assets to spend their newfound wealth on. Although early crypto markets were used to sell illicit goods and services (arguably a necessary step in legitimizing the value of bitcoin), NFTs and CryptoArt would eventually play a substantial role in creating a mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency, inherently impacting its value in unprecedented ways (Rothstein, 18-25, 69-81). Therefore, different questions must be raised when understanding the placement of CryptoArt within art history, such as the defining qualities of digital art, where its value comes from, and how the market compares to traditional markets either as a competitor or an extension. At the same time, an analysis of capital exposes the systems of social capital and digital elitism, explaining how social media impacts the decentralized global crypto economy. Finally, discussion is dedicated to the alternate reality of the internet, where an entire societal structure is forming under the self-governance of coders, engineers, developers, and artists. Creating Digital real estate, legitimate currency, borderless interaction and movement, and anti-institutional frameworks to form a virtual reality opposing real-life constructs. Thereby creating encrypted spaces on the web that sit independent and unobstructed by governments and any form of outside dictation or regulation.
CollectionLangues et littératures modernes - Mémoires // Modern Languages and Literatures - Research Papers