Damien Hirst’s NFT Mission Is a Lot Like Mine. However the Variations Communicate Volumes About Our Divergent Visions for Crypto-Artwork

Think about an formidable sequence of items utilizing NFTs to discover the thought of artist-as-currency. Every NFT is backed by a bodily paintings. Whereas the full variety of works stretches into the handfuls and dozens, every one stays a materially restricted efficiency of labor—a novel visible artifact created by a flesh-and-blood human. The finished works are saved in a vault, additional highlighting their worth, and the artist has designed the sequence in order that any token purchaser can redeem their intangible buy for a bodily work, “burning” the token. 

In the event you’ve been following the art-market information cycle this yr, you’d most likely guess that I’m describing Damien Hirst’s NFT challenge, The Foreign money. In that case, you’d be half-right. Why solely half? As a result of I’m additionally describing my very own challenge, Bitchcoin, which I debuted again in 2015.

Don’t fear, this isn’t the opening salvo to some sort of grievance letter. Hirst already (in)famously stated, “All my concepts are stolen” lengthy earlier than he began on The Foreign money. It’s a cavalier angle that concepts are low cost, and it’s all about execution. He’s not essentially incorrect, both. Apart from, I’m a fan of his, and isn’t imitation the best type of flattery?

What pursuits me about The Foreign money, greater than the (important) similarities between Hirst’s new sequence and my previous one, is that this: the variations between our initiatives articulate two diverging views on the place artwork, crypto, and market forces are pushing tradition at giant. This isn’t to say that Hirst’s selections are “incorrect” and mine have been “proper.” However our selections—and the reasoning behind them—characterize a direct conflict of beliefs that has been unfolding not directly ever since NFTs started their fast ascent to the moon. 


His and Hers

Bitchcoin was initially conceived half-earnestly, half-satirically. The thought was to push the tendencies I used to be seeing in 2014 (folks turning themselves into manufacturers on social media, blockchain expertise, and the financialization of artwork) to their logical extremes, then current those self same amplified tendencies again as an paintings. It was, at first, about embodying a system (capitalism) to render it seen. For higher or for worse, it got here out of relational aesthetics fairly than chasing wealth.

Initially, Bitchcoin was a digital foreign money backed by my images at a hard and fast trade price of 1 Bitchcoin to 25 sq. inches of photographic print. As my work adjustments in worth over time, so will the relative worth of Bitchcoin.

This Might, I migrated Bitchcoin from its native chain to Ethereum, backing every token with a novel pressed rose petal from my Cloud of Petals sequence. It was featured within the Wall Road Journal markets part, with a devoted public sale at Phillips. Bitchcoin is absolutely asset-backed, very similar to the previous U.S. gold commonplace.

Image of Sarah Meyohas, <em>Bitchcoin</em> (2021). Courtesy the artist.

Picture of Sarah Meyohas, Bitchcoin (2021). Courtesy the artist.

I used to be considerably stunned when NFTs took off. After which, when Damien Hirst’s challenge got here out, effectively, it was a bit of uncanny. 

The Foreign money, a title that manspreads on the very idea of foreign money, has been extraordinarily well-publicized, however for a fast abstract: 10,000 NFTs correspond to 10,000 dot work saved in a vault. For a yr, the customer has the choice to redeem the portray, at which level the corresponding NFT will likely be burned. 

In The Foreign money, shade, overlaps, density, texture, phrases, and characters have all been became rankings. My private favourite: “every of the ten,000 artworks have been individually weighed upon completion, to a precision of 0.01 grams…The rating for weight is the quantity of grams that an paintings weighs. Every of those scores can also be ranked out of 10,000.”

I think about that his workforce checked out different crypto initiatives and noticed that hierarchies appear to be a mainstay of profitable drops. CryptoPunks, amongst probably the most seen and profitable of NFT initiatives, have hierarchies based mostly on the rarity of sure options. Since a CryptoPunk usually turns into your avatar, the idiosyncrasy of your punk does appear essential if that’s the group that you just’re part of. In attempting to enchantment to a crypto viewers, it’s as if Hirst appears to consider that for those who give them a set of metrics to check one another to, regardless of whether or not they’re significant, you’ll create the info to interact a market. When Hirst decides on 10,000 dot footage or rarity analytics, he’s appropriating CryptoPunks.

Hirst is coming into this new cultural panorama headfirst, taking all of the cues from profitable initiatives, placing them right into a blender, and giving us a extremely produced by-product that’s hoping to solidify a spot in artwork and crypto historical past. Sadly for Hirst, the metaphor of his foreign money is just not crypto. His metaphor is to conventional currencies which might be actually antithetical to crypto.

Image of Damien Hirst's <em>The Currency</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Picture of Damien Hirst’s The Foreign money. Courtesy of the artist.

Bitchcoin, like a backed foreign money, doesn’t put a time restrict on redemption. Hirst asks you to resolve between the bodily print and the nft’d {photograph} of the print on the finish of a yr. Afterwards, you possibly can now not make the selection. You could have one or the opposite.

Let’s have a look at that alternative. What is actually the distinction between the portray and the picture of the portray as an NFT? Would possibly one have a extra liquid market? Or may you care concerning the tried-and-tested materials of portray, whose exhibition worth may endure previous the present NFT increase? The challenge’s title, the urgency-inducing schedule, and the showdown format strongly means that that is being staged as a sort of Brexit-style referendum on whether or not or not artwork buyers ought to exit the world of IRL artwork objects.


An Different

The Bitchcoin NFT is “backed” by a petal, however it’s not an image of the petal. Although Bitchcoin is “convertible” into my artwork, the selection is just not between two methods to flow into worth—a bodily paintings or an NFT associated to it. Whereas Hirst is fractionalizing a dots portray over ten thousand items, my challenge is exploring the fractionalization of myself, my very own fame.

In doing so, I used to be making myself weak by permitting patrons to invest on my future fame, to commerce in opposition to my success or maintain to see what I had in retailer. I used to be disintegrating the artist and her works right into a group of coin holders, the place collaborating means proudly owning Bitchcoin. (And consider me: it’s way more inconvenient to carry onto the bodily paintings “backing” the coin for others indefinitely, as I’m doing, than it’s to vow to dump and destroy them, as Hirst does).

Images from Sarah Meyohas's "Cloud of Petals" series. Image courtesy Sarah Meyohas.

Photographs from Sarah Meyohas’s “Cloud of Petals” sequence. Picture courtesy Sarah Meyohas.

Shopping for Bitchcoin is just not about shopping for right into a gamified model of hypothesis. It’s about letting folks align themselves with my profession, my ethos, providing them a stake in the concept this imaginative and prescient is related and can develop in relevance.

This can be a new type of artwork patronage—one which’s fraught however that has actual potential that’s neglected when the dialog turns into a well-known artist and a joke concerning the arbitrary sorts of distinctions that fireside the minds of on-line NFT merchants.

The reality is that within the strategy of relaunching Bitchcoin, I’ve been capable of have interaction with an viewers that’s really within the conceptual grounding of my artwork, one which has regularly stunned me. The viewers seems like they’ve a stake within the challenge. This has unlocked a brand new means of working, one which opens way more potentialities for the common artist than Hirst’s CryptoPunks-inspired money seize. If The Foreign money is your impression of the crypto area, I believe we’ve missed an distinctive alternative. 

The Bitchcoin project logo. Image courtesy Sarah Meyohas.

The Bitchcoin challenge brand. Picture courtesy Sarah Meyohas.

Might this expertise permit me to selectively keep and relinquish management of my picture and creations? On this blockchain current, can I entrust my viewers with a malleable type of possession whereas envisioning a extra dynamic social follow? How can this mechanism return company to artists? My techno-utopian tendencies could stick out in artwork’s present second, however I’ve discovered conceptual and financial potential within the expertise.

In artwork we are able to create new and higher realities. Solely in advantageous artwork can the current be able to such surreal, insane, poetic enlargement. Now we are able to, with this new materials, return company to artists. Let’s not miss this chance.

Sarah Meyohas is an artist working on the intersection of markets, society and rising applied sciences. In 2015 she obtained an MFA from Yale College.

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