Blockchain is a Hot Topic


Tackling the Lack of Scarcity of Online Art

Richard Adams


If you aren’t sure what Blockchain actually is then Oxford Dictionaries defines it as ‘a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly’. That’s right, it’s not a new Internet or web, it’s a system for transparent recording of transactions.


Creating Value

In the art world this means that value can be seen and transactions of your work can be openly tracked.  Not only that, but it can be authenticated by experts in an open and transparent fashion. i2M is one organisation that is trying to use this technology to create a new standard that can be used in the fight against forgery. This is intended to consist of a marker at molecular level on ‘real’ artworks and a digital equivalent online.

Creating confirmed provenance is important as the market needs to believe that something is real for it to have value. The Picasso painting has to be proven as a Picasso for it to have its value. In a way, this tech is enabling the first true wave of digital art dealers. One of the issues that we have dealt with for decades is how to sell and create value in digital art. If something can be endlessly copied, it has no value. You can see this in musicians’ incomes plummeting due to the lack of scarcity of output. Blockchain can solve this issue if we want it to as it opens up the way to let the crowd decide value, not the elite, as well as collective ownership becoming a reality. This may actually serve to create more wealth for artists as they can create one-off unique digital artefacts or control the value of what they sell – just take a look at Ascribe.

You can see more uses of Blockchain here.


Blockchain Artworks

However, great though it is as a transaction ledger, it can be used for other things and indeed a number of artists have started to use the technology to create.

Plantoid by Okhaos is one such created piece: ‘The physical form of Plantoid is determined by its blockchain presence, which represents an advance on the state of the art. The Bitcoin blockchain is a database that represents control of resources. Most simply these resources are amounts of Bitcoin but we can encode information representing other resources – and the right to control them – into the blockchain as well’.

Rob Myers’ Facecoin is another experiment: ‘Facecoin uses machine pareidolia as its proof of work. This is implemented by applying CCV’s JavaScript face detection algorithm to SHA-256 digests represented as greyscale pixel maps. An industrial-strength version would use OpenCV. Due to the limitations of face detection as implemented by these libraries, the digest pixel map is upscaled and blurred to produce images of the size and kind that they can find faces in’.

Cryptopunks is a Blockchain piece that explores art as collectibles. They are 24×24 pixel art images, algorithmically generated, that can be bought, traded and collected. Each one is owned and traded like trading cards. These are pieces that only exist in the digital space. They don’t exist for real but because of the way the Ethereum platform works, they take on the value of the real. They exist, they are real and they are tradeable due to scarcity.

What happens if these things get hacked, I hear you ask? Well I think that that is likely another article for another time.

Blockchain is not the easiest thing to use for the creation of art but its impact is likely to be massive over time if for nothing else but the provenance and value it brings to purely digital works. This could be thing that kick starts the digital dealership world.


richard adams

Richard Adams

Richard has been creating new digital products, games and art since 1990, but most recently has been designing and leading digital transformation programmes, working with data, AI and enterprise architecture. He has worked in senior roles at The Royal Shakespeare Company, Microsoft Studios, Aviva, BSkyB, BBC and others. He has also founded a university digital arts department, helped launch the School of Communication Arts, held a Visiting Professorship and is currently Visiting Senior Fellow at Lincoln University. A published author, he also writes and releases contemporary music, writes science fiction tales and photographs his environment.

Author: Naomi Curston

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