by Jamie Holmes
The Crypto Art Gallery, held April 9 in the UK's second city, Manchester, was an intriguing intersection between the world of art and Bitcoin. A collection of artists' work was on display with inspiration drawn from abstract art, cubism, and pop art.
The location of the event was fitting, held within a stone's throw of the Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester, boasting great architecture. Also located nearby was the Alan Turing memorial, celebrating the pioneer in the fields of computer science and cryptography.
The line up at the Crypto Art Galley included a range of artists, including locals from the city. For example, Two Minds / One Love was an interesting piece, drawing on an abstract theme with mixed media from the Manchester Outsider Artist Network. The piece was on sale for five BTC to raise funds for the Manchester Bitcoin Heist Movie 2017 / A Surreal Day in the Life of Isaiah Hull.
Two Minds / One Love
Pantelis Roussakis cleverly utilizes the aesthetic of a bitcoin wallet to provide a new take on cubism and abstract art while raising awareness of the cryptocurrency. The piece below adds color to the standard black and white format of the QR code of a bitcoin wallet.
Pop Wallet #1
Another depicted the QR code as three dimensional, as if the code is bleeding into cyberspace.
Skewed Wallet #1
A larger oil print was the centrepiece of Roussakis' display with a clear influence of cubism.
While there was a lot of bitcoin-related artwork, Bitcoin Mint makes it interactive, with 'art wallets,' jazzing up the plain, old QR code. The private keys are not kept by Bitcoin Mint and you can even request a BIP38 encrypted wallet on their website. Another interesting aspect of their artwork, is that Bitcoin Mint will buy them back if you ever wish to sell, with their website stating:
"Due to their collectible nature, we value the opportunity to buy them back should you ever decide to sell. You can also sell or trade them to other collectors."
'I Promise' (middle) uses a Zimbabwean fiat note in the artwork educating on why bitcoin is necessary. The contrast between the quotes and the emphasis on the note as a promise and the qr code, bitcoin symbol and private key as an asset is a nice introductory visual for someone interested in bitcoin.
Also, there was a piece inspired by the famous Cambell's Soup by Andy Warhol (right) with a bitcoin twist.
'A Beautiful Mind' displays a physical bitcoin being inserted into a skull, visually describing how bitcoin is igniting the imaginations of people worldwide to overhaul a dead system. But then on second glance, there is no jawbone, implying that no speech is possible, but with bitcoin you can speak with your money. For example, bitcoin is open source, once you start finding out about it, you wish you paid more attention to computer science and cryptography.
A Beautiful Mind
With bitcoin, maybe it stimulates a beautiful mind, in that you are encouraged to think about how bitcoin works and what you can do to contribute, you can make your voice heard by contributing to the open-source project whereas fiat, you are not having a say in how it is run.
But then stumbling on the Bitcoin Mint website, an explanation from the artist himself, Steven Michaels:
"Since June 7, 2011 – the day I discovered bitcoin – I have not been able to keep it off my mind. The potential to change the world and give greater freedom to those who want it is literally 'mind-blowing.' Bitcoin has been 'on my mind' every day since – and probably will be until the day I die. To me, this piece has multiple meanings: the skull is both a “piggy bank” for storing bitcoins but it also represents the potential death of traditional money and power structures. It can represent the thousands of times bitcoin has been declared dead – only to rise again. This drawing is also a self-portrait. The hand is mine and I imagine I’ll probably take a few bitcoins with me to the grave.”
Youl, a French artist, also showcased their work at the Crypto Art Gallery with 'Les Mineurs' particularly eye catching, with a miner playing poker with a man in a suit. On the left side, you have the decaying past with the dark rubble displaying the signs of fiat currencies such as the euro, dollar and the yen, whereas the right hand side shows the future with a bitcoin sign and a skyline of bright buildings.
Les Mineurs - Youl
'Les Mineurs' really gets you to think about what is going on, there is so much happening with the poker game and the backdrop serving up two parallel messages. The coal miner represents bitcoin miners, the supply side, and the man in the suit represents bitcoin buyers, the demand side, and they are playing a game of poker, not too disimilar to trading on the market.
However, it is also not too much of a stretch to think that the man in the suit represents Satoshi Nakamoto, as the anonymous nature of Bitcoin's creator is implied somewhat by the suit and sunglasses.
The Legendary Satoshi Nakamoto
There was one artwork which was definitely inspired by Satoshi Nakamoto with the artist Michael Cander giving us his view of the legend, personified as a Japanese warrior with a sword. A warrior who is honorable and sworn to protecting the people, suggested by the bitcoin and moon imagery in the painting allude to the untouched bitcoin that are supposed to be owned by Nakamoto.
Satoshi Nakamoto II - Michael Cander
Satoshi is estimated to be sitting on a fortune of 1 million bitcoin, a dormant warrior who will protect against attempts at sabotage and has yet to take bitcoin's price to the moon?
Satoshi Graphics displayed their work, with two standout pieces 'Here's the Blockchain' and 'Girl with Bitcoin.' Both a more direct, in your face style of conveying meaning and intention.
Bitcoin-themed t-shirts were popular too, as seen below, with the artist 'Toon Punk' having only a few remaining by the closing day of CoinFestUK 2017. Also, the 'Sonic the Hedgefund' Print is displayed.
B The Change - Toon Punk
Crypto Art Details the Bitcoin Revolution
Throughout the CoinFest event, Valentina Picozzi's work was on display, who founded Satoshi Gallery in 2016. The London-based artist is driven and uses her artwork to bridge the gap between technologists and the common person in the street. Valentina expresses the technological revolution that Bitcoin represents, giving people a chance to immerse themselves and achieve a greater understanding.
To guide newcomer's heads around Bitcoin, Picozzi splits her artwork into two main strands of subject matter; firstly, an analysis of the current monetary order and the banking system to understand the concepts Bitcoin stands for and secondly, a focus more on the movement behind cryptocurrency, with many pieces emphasizing important quotes throughout Bitcoin history.
For instance, Picozzi takes the concept of Know Your Customer (KYC) and turns it on its head with the piece below 'Know Your Bank,' referencing the shady inner world of the British bank Barclays, with LIBOR rigging just one example of their misconduct.
As famous artists have embodied historical revolutions in their works, Valentina Picozzi is an one of many artists capturing the spirit of the movement behind Bitcoin. With cryptocurrency being an intangible asset, modern artists showcasing at events like the Crypto Art Gallery are an important force driving adoption, inspiration and an understanding amongst the general public.