Art Imitates Crypto

The Partnership of Technology and Modern Art

Portrait of a Mind by Robert Alice

While Bitcoin is firmly planted in the technology world, recent trends show a bigger adoption of the art scene as well. Whether you want bitcoin-themed artwork, tokenized artwork, or just to buy regular art with cryptocurrency, it’s now possible.

NFT Artwork Sold

Recently, the first non-fungible token (NFT) “digital portrait” work of art was sold at Christie’s, along with a physical Bitcoin-related painting. Block 21, part of the “Portraits of a Mind” series by Robert Alice, sold with its NFT for a whopping $131,250 after expecting to bring in $10,000–18,000. The NFT portion of the work is a digital representation of the painting, with changing light properties based on a programmable time zone.

This was the first time an NFT was sold at a major auction house. The previous record price for an NFT was $105,000, set just a month ago.

The “Portraits of a Mind” 40-painting series is meant to represent portraits of Satoshi Nakamoto, with the centers blank to convey his unknown identity (“Robert Alice” is similarly a pseudonym, or rather “decentralized collective,” founded by artist and crypto trader Ben Gentilli). But these round pieces also recall designs of ancient coins to draw a parallel between historic and future currency.

Each painting is done on a large 50” circular canvas panel and represents one of the first bitcoin blockchain blocks, including its complete code of over 322,000 digits meticulously inscribed in paint. While the first 20 works were sold to private collectors, Block 21 is the first offered for sale at auction, and was chosen for that honor as a nod to Bitcoin’s maximum 21-million supply.

Taking the symbolism even further, the design of the overall series is decentralized, like cryptocurrency itself. Individual pieces have been sold and installed around the world, from Switzerland to Seoul to Saudi Arabia.

“The core idea of the project was, ‘How do you make something of real cultural value within the Bitcoin sphere?’” Gentilli mused in an interview. He kept coming back to the code base because that’s what he sees as the basis of Bitcoin culture.

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