“Art is not a thing, it is a means,” said American writer Elbert Hubbard. For Bitcoin (BTC) artists, the path draws inspiration from Bitcoin, its code, philosophy, and imagery. In some cases, it’s even inspired by memes. Bitcoin has become a “lifestyle” for some Bitcoin artists, inspiring the way they do business, accept payments, and interact with customers.
Cointelegraph asked Bitcoin artists what inspired them about 13-year-old Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention, and whether minting a non-fungible token (NFT) would complement their “way” of making art. After all, an NFT is a unique digital receipt to prove ownership of a purchase that lives on a blockchain. Surely artists will want to prove that they own the art they’ve worked hard on?
Lena, a bitcoin artist who recently moved from Germany to Dubai, who respects cryptocurrencies, started creating, painting and printing bitcoin artwork after diving down the bitcoin rabbit hole in 2018. She said that when she started her crypto career as a crypto-agnostic, Bitcoin changed her approach and eventually took over. It now operates a “maxi-style” bitcoin wallet:
“My mindset changed and I started working on myself, wondering what to do with my life because of bitcoin. Bitcoin has become like a lifestyle, so I should put all my savings into bitcoin .
When speaking with members of the crypto community, she explains that she is a bitcoin artist, to which crypto enthusiasts ask, “Oh, so you do NFTs?” She told Cointelegraph that she replied, “No! Physical art!
“OpenSea is full of art that doesn’t look like art – I mean, art is always up to the person, but that was too much for me.”
However, countless artists make a living by generating AI artwork and selling it or minting it as NFTs on platforms such as OpenSea. The biggest stories of 2021 involved cartoon chimpanzees collective – Bored Ape Yacht Club – and CryptoPunks, other digitally rendered images or works of art.
In the bear market of 2022, the hype around NFTs would have evaporated. Yet big brands such as Starbucks continue to follow suit, while luxury jeweler Tiffany prompted a 1,700% increase in transaction volume following an NFT move in August.
When Cointelegraph asked FractalEncrypt (an anonymous Bitcoin artist) if they would release an NFT of their art in the future, they replied, “Absolutely not.” FractalEncrypt sculpts large, towering and time-consuming Bitcoin full-node structures, which it has hidden in locations around the world:
The Bitcoin full node sculpture, a Cypherpunk stopwatch.
#5 out of 10 was hand delivered yesterday and I wanted to compile a GIGA-THREAD compiling photos, videos, explanations and podcasts in one place
Let’s go back in time and down the rabbit hole and see #1-4 pic.twitter.com/8IcGnl0tyE
— FractalEncrypt ∞/21M (@FractalEncrypt) March 29, 2021
“I created NFTs in 2017/18 and the deeper I investigated them, the more disillusioned I became. They felt inherently rogue, and me to continue down that path would make me a rogue in my eyes.
FractalEncrypt explained that the link between the art and the token was “ephemeral at best and outright misrepresentation/fraud at worst.” They liken NFT issuance to centralized token-issuing companies, which could be problematic and even contentious.
But that doesn’t mean that FractalEncrypt ditched NFT technology from the start. Like Lena, the two artists were curious about Ethereum-based technology when it first surfaced:
“An artist issuing an NFT token and selling it to others in the hope that it may appreciate in value puts the artist in the position of possibly issuing securities.”
Indeed, Wikipedia explains that an NFT is a “financial security consisting of digital data stored in a blockchain”. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is focusing on certain crypto projects during the bear market. At the same time, the case between the SEC and Ripple regarding the latter’s XRP token is raging.
BitcoinArt, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is among the few bitcoin artists that Cointelegraph has spoken to who have also dipped their toes into the world of NFTs. They told Cointelegraph that they managed to sell a few NFTs of their bitcoin-related artwork, but didn’t like the medium or the concept:
“I made some great bitcoin pictures and didn’t know how to mint them, and someone told me to mint on OpenSea. Unfortunately they use ETH… But the good news is I sold my NFT via Twitter for sats instead, and I cut the middleman I hate ETH.
A recurring theme at this point, BitcoinArt prefers to have one-on-one interactions with potential customers; he loves the back and forth that comes from discussing works of art.
Lena also prefers the personal approach. She connects with her clients and spends hours painstakingly sketching, painting and perfecting client visions. In Lena’s words, the time spent on her art is a reflection of proof of work, the consensus mechanism that underpins the Bitcoin protocol. She told Cointelegraph that the process of creating a work of art is unique and limited – much like Bitcoin – so there is no need for an NFT. Here, Lena makes a statement with one of her pieces:
FractalEncrypt mocked the prescient “high time preference culture” in NFTs. Indeed, many of the biggest CryptoPunks supporters were quick to trade their allegiance to BAYC before jumping on the next shiny new collection.
Related: NFT art galleries: future of the digital artwork or another crypto mode?
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a movement. Lena said, “Bitcoin changed my way of thinking. Bitcoin changed me. [Learning about Bitcoin] was a very, very meaningful chapter in my life.
Interestingly, a search for “Bitcoin NFT” on OpenSea yields over 70,000 items. For Lena, the door is still open: “NFTs could have use cases in the future, but in the current state of NFTs, that doesn’t seem right,” she conceded. OpenSea has suffered hacks and washout swaps, but JPEGs of pixelated images valued at seven figures continue to sell. “It’s like a bubble,” Lena summed up.
Conversely, Bitcoin is down more than 50% from its bubbly highs of $69,000, and the “tourists” are gone. Additionally, Bitcoin received as payment for an artwork will likely never be hacked or “emptied” from a wallet.