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“BitchCoin” Currency Challenges the Way We Buy Art

The BitchCoin logo, courtesy of the artist.
The BitchCoin logo (all images courtesy the artist)

Transactions in the art world tend towards the material: historically, collectors have exchanged their cash or patronage for physical artworks. But a new project from Sarah Meyohas and the Brooklyn-based Where gallery explores the future of art in a world where both art and the market are increasingly immaterial.

Fascinated by BitCoin, Meyohas decided to explore the implications of what she called “totally dematerialized value” by creating her own crypto-currency, Wired reported. “The idea began out of a conversation about speculation,” Meyohas told Hyperallergic. She says that she was intrigued by Bitcoin, which she saw as “a system of value that comes close to being dematerialized and purely ideal. Yet, the terminology surrounding the currency is surprisingly material. An analogy to gold allows the currency to be a ‘coin’ that is ‘mined.’ I was interested in how the language was being used to retrieve a sense of dimension.”

The BitchCoin mine, courtesy of the artist.
The BitchCoin mine

The result is BitchCoin, a currency that can be used solely to buy a share in Meyohas’s existent or future artworks. One BitchCoin is worth $100, and it purchases 25 square inches of one of Meyohas’s prints. An entire print is worth 25 BitchCoins. The project gives collectors a chance to invest not only in artworks Meyohas has already created but in her artistic development. This is a new kind of speculation — one that implications for the way that we think about artistic investments. “By giving the artist an increased stake in the supply, demand, and price of the work, BitchCoin challenges the status quo. The artist as maker of meaning reclaims agency in self-evaluation,” Meyohas said.

Her project underscores the degree to which monetary exchange is abstracted from material reality. As the value of currency becomes an increasingly digital affair, divorced from commodities on the ground, it becomes easier for us to construct or imagine alternate economic realities: in the Where gallery exhibition, there’s a space for “mining” BitchCoins — an ironic nod to the conceptual nature of Meyohas’s fictional currency, and currency more generally.

BitchCoin also calls traditional notions of ownership into question. If it’s possible to “own” a share of Meyohas’s not-yet-existent works — to “own” something as intangible as her progress — it may be possible to own other immaterial artworks, like installations or pieces of netart. “I would like to see an art market that allows collectors to invest in an artist as a value producer, rather than investing in a single piece. Artists and collectors are linked in a more symbiotic way,” Meyohas explained. Perhaps her project will help pave the way.

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