For centuries, art has provided an important commentary on the social, political, and economic circumstances in which it is created. Our own economy, in which value seems increasingly spun out of thin air, has found its own landmark artistic response with the launch of 0xowns.art, a work devoted entirely to its own purchase and sale.
Using Ethereum, an open-source blockchain platform and cryptocurrency (ETH), visitors to 0xowns.art can check the current market value of the work in consideration, purchase it, and then set the resale price. Whenever that price will be matched by the other customer, the ownership of the work would be transferred. After this, the seller’s ETH account will be credited. In this ownership transfer, no digital assets or tokens are granted or exchanged. The transaction is simply recorded in the Ethereum blockchain to reflect the ownership.
“Cryptocurrency always struck me as a bit of performance art,” notes 0xowns.art’s creator, CalArts MFA Alexander Rafalovich. “Artworks created anywhere, at any time, have always claimed value beyond their intrinsic merits, whether that’s meant cultural, political, or economic value. Meanwhile, financial instruments have tended at least to claim solid grounding in the value of tangible assets, when they’ve been aggressively abstracting themselves from those realities.
“Cryptocurrencies make no pretense of appeal to anything of intrinsic value. They have value because their communities say they do. That sort of aggressively extrinsic valuation has tended to be the province of art, not of commerce, and certainly not of currency. 0xowns.art has some fun with that idea while appealing to a serious history of artistic critique.”
That history stretches back at least as far as the Renaissance when the Medicis commissioned artworks that expanded the world’s technical vocabulary while asserting their own power in Florence and beyond. In the 20th century, artists like Yves Klein questioned the limits of capitalism in works that focused on the relationship between financial transactions and intrinsic value. Pietro Manzoni famously issued a series of cans incapable of being x-rayed or otherwise examined without ruining their value. He sold the first for the equivalent of $37. As if to prove his point nearly 80 years after his death, one of Manzoni’s tins recently sold for $300,000.
The abstraction of intrinsic value to the financial has only increased since then and finds a kind of perfection in the decentralized instruments made possible by Ethereum and other blockchain-based platforms. 0xowns.art responds to most cryptocurrency’s complete abandonment of intrinsic measures of valuation by creating an artwork that itself has no grounding in physical reality or even in digital tokens of ownership. The work exists only in the transactions performed by the site’s visitors.
Purchasers of 0xowns.art will not have their names recorded as owners of the work. They will not be remembered by endowments or commemorated on plaques hanging behind docent’s stations. They will merely be making art history as participants in the first global expression of ownership as art.
To learn more about 0xowns.art, please contact Alexander Rafalovich at firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase 0xowns.art, please visit its site.