Digital Art Jumps on the Blockchain Bandwagon

  • Pepes were featured in the first ever rare digital art auction.  The frog meme has been linked to the alt-right.

    Pepes were featured in the first ever rare digital art auction. The frog meme has been linked to the alt-right.

    The Paris Review

From fivethirtyeight:

"A small triumvirate of artists, technologists and financiers are using the blockchain to render art rare and then selling it. In the process, they’ve figured out a way to make digital art valuable...

Technology like the blockchain, they say, democratizes art by creating scarcity, allowing more artists to profit from their work, thus leveling the playing field for creators rather than consumers. In their minds, that’s the gunshot that will spark the revolution."

Some proponents say that blockchain technology, as a decentralized digital ledger, lends transparency to ownership and authenticity, solving issues for one-of-a-kind digital images to finally enter the collections of art institutions. (The Whitney, reports The Paris Review, is in the process of commissioning a blockchain work by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy to be launched in spring 2018.)

A live auction of digital art on the blockchain first transpired in January. The New York sale focused on Rare Pepe, the green frog meme, with one "Homer Pepe" (as in Homer Simpson, not Winslow Homer) image climbing to 350,000 in PepeCash, the equivalent of over $30,000. Vice noted: "Speakers at the event included members of the New York City-based art world and blockchain enthusiasts alike. During the Rare Pepe auction, staff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Sotheby’s Institute of Art sat silently."

One rattling aspect of the Rare Pepe auction is that Pepe the Frog has been appropriated by white nationalists, or the so-called alt-right, and a lawsuit over usage of the frog image has erupted. This week, CNN reported that "Matt Furie, the character's creator, is suing Infowars, the media company helmed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones." Infowars sold posters depicting Pepe with various alt-right celebrities and Furie is suing for copyright infringement.

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