Bitcoin, Digital Art & Scarcity

January 8, 2016 4:29 PM UTC

I recently sat down with a professional artist to discuss his art and teaching career. Eventually, the discussion led to art and the blockchain after a comment he made. He recalled that, when digital art first came out, the quality of it left something to be desired. His colleagues said that digital art was hardly art. He held reservations about that opinion, believing that, in due time, digital art could be at the forefront.

When the Internet first came out in the nineties, he said, the people making digital art were computer programmers. However, eventually artists joined the online world. Soon thereafter, you had artists who were programmers and programmers who were artists.

However, there is still one problem, he told me. There’s no way to keep track of digital art pieces. He explained how, when Andy Warhol was popular, he re-invented how art was produced. No longer could people know how many pieces of a particular Warhol existed. Thus, those individuals who are holding onto those pieces don’t necessarily know how many of them there could be. If there’s thousands, then their pieces are not so valuable. They best sell first.

There are numerous Bitcoin companies looking to use the blockchain to re-invent the art world. works to enable a blockchain-based authentication platform for digital products. believes your digital content is worth something, and that banks and other financial institutions should see such work as collateral. Such a paradigm shift could change the global economy as we know it, and is on the front lines. an entrepreneur and artist, Stephan Vogler wishes to change the art world using Bitcoin. His blockchain inspired license seeks to change how art is bought and sold. Whether or not creating a system of rights to copyrighted works in digital form has yet to be seen.

Artists throughout time have depended on scarcity to profit from art. Before that, a totally new medium – digital art – had been created. You couldn’t own a Picasso merely by printing out a piece of paper, but you could, on the other hand, create a piece of work that could be shared innumerable times. So, what programmers must consider is: “can digital art truly not be copy/pasted? What’s more, if someone does “own” a piece of digital art, can they not change the code creating essentially the akin of a counterfeit? These are unanswered the questions.

The music industry was torn asunder when Sean Parker introduced Napster in 2000. Digital art, if it can be authenticated, could become the target of hackers who wish defraud someone over a valuable piece of digital art.

In conclusion, whether or not digital art can be made scarce  – considering heretofore its modus operandi has been abundance – has yet to be seen. With the block chain, many are exploring this idea, but nascent as it is, nothing is clear.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Last modified: May 21, 2020 10:35 AM UTC