Last November Icelandic singer Björk allowed people to pre-order her new album "Utopia" from her label One Little Indian in four cryptocurrencies - Bitcoin, litecoin, dash, and AudioCoin.
While the value of Bitcoin dramatically plunged in the last few weeks (it is valued $9,987.23 at the time of writing this post), the concept of cryptocurrencies remains an intriguing one, a sort of ubiquitous talking point in different circles.
Yet some industries seem still clueless about them: as seen in a previous post, there are very few fashion sites where you can use cryptocurrencies and major fashion houses don't even bother mentioning transactions in Bitcoin and such likes. Things may be changing sooner than expected, though, especially now that the art market has opened up to cryptocurrencies.
Ronchini Gallery recently announced the project "Breaking the Fourth Wall" by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde at Platform at The Armory Show 2018, in New York (8th - 11th March). Curated by Jen Mergel, Platform features large-scale artworks, installations and site-specific commissions across the fair.
Smilde is known for his "Nimbus" series, recognised by TIME Magazine as one of the "Top Ten Inventions of 2012". The series features ephemeral clouds mysteriously hovering in indoor spaces.
"Breaking the Fourth Wall" takes its name from a theatre-expression used to describe directly addressing the audience and breaking the illusion of a play in productions. In this case it refers to the fact that Smilde's clouds will appear automatically and at random times throughout the duration of the fair, dissipating as mysteriously as they were formed.
To celebrate this event, Ronchini Gallery is selling a c-type print on aluminium of the photograph "Nimbus Powerstation" (2017) and it is only accepting payment through Bitcoin.
In a press release the gallery founder Lorenzo Ronchini stated: "The past few years has seen a growing acceptance of Bitcoin currency by industries and businesses. We understand its volatility, but also its potential power to transform our financial systems. The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency offers the art market greater transparency and opportunity by addressing issues of copyright and ownership in the industry."
"This is the first-time we are taking payment on works in cryptocurrency and have plans to further explore the possibilities of these technologies and how they may enhance and influence the art world in the future. The gallery has represented Berndnaut Smilde for over 5 years, and in this time we've seen his works speak to audiences globally across science and technology as a symbol of innovation."
As much as Ronchini's decision may sound crazy, it is hilariously intriguing since it opens up new possibilities for the art market. In a way it could be considered as an experimental art project in itself.
Mainly populated by very wealthy clients, the art market may be radically transformed not just by quicker transactions, but also by the fact that people into such currencies aren't your average billionaires (imagine if ordinary people without yachts to park outside the Venice Biennale could invest their money into art...)
Who knows, maybe if cryptocurrencies become more accepted and ordinary people really start buying artworks, things will dramatically change. For the time being, Ronchini picked the perfect piece for this experiment: priced at one Bitcoin, Smilde's work seems to hint at the volatile value of the cryptocurrency. Just like the Dutch artist creates temporary indoor clouds that last long enough for a photo, cryptocurrencies are generated in an intangible and immaterial digital space and their value may plunge in an instant.
Fashion houses interested in improving their performances and increase sales should maybe take attention to Ronchini's experiment. Who knows, some of them may be quicker in jumping on the bandwagon than others and even generate their own trendy currency. Maybe the Prada coin is nearer than we ever thought.