Digital art is increasingly gaining traction in the contemporary art world. Phillips’s last two “Paddles ON!” auctions, which showcased digital formats ranging from GIFs to video game screenshots, have been well received. Blue-chip galleries are on board too; Pace Art + Technology, a new 20,000-square-foot space in Silicon Valley, is dedicated solely to digital media. Digital art collectives—Japan’s teamLab being the most prominent—have also sprung up.
Most importantly, prices are rising. In 2003, Cory Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds, a wall projection birthed from a hacked Nintendo chip, sold for $3,000. Last year, an edition of that same piece went for $630,000. Still, the question remains: How can a gallery sell digital content as investment-grade art when it already exists online and can be copied like a Google Doc? The answer is blockchain, the same computer technology that serves as the public ledger for bitcoin transactions around the globe.
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Digital artwork, from digital music to fine art, has been a growing area for a while now.
If a work is infinitely reproducible at no cost, however, how can a collector establish that they have an original or one of an edition? Monegraph takes advantage of the bitcoin database, the block chain, to log each transfer of a work (just as the database does for bitcoin), so that it really is set in stone who owns a digital piece at each moment.“It’s not about stopping piracy.
It’s about facilitating legitimate commerce,” Kevin McCoy, co-founder and CEO of Monegraph, told the Observer in an interview before the night’s presentations. He pointed to iTunes as an example of a marketplace for digital music.
He said people might have their complaints about how Apple did it, but it was a way for people to know they were purchasing authorized work. There hadn’t been a good way to do that before.
Once there was, people did it.