Two words: Crypto Kitties. Last week’s feel-good story, infused with the perfect blend of cute, kitsch, and crazy, was all about “breedable digital babies” – virtual cats which exist on the ethereum network. Their viral success – and that of similar projects such as rare pepe blockchain cards – are innovative instances of digital art. Could collectibles with built-in digital scarcity be the future of online art?
Scarcity is Becoming Common
Scarcity is a concept that anyone with a grounding in bitcoin will be familiar with. It is the scarcity of bitcoin, with its fixed supply of 21 million coins, that has helped send the digital currency to record highs. If new bitcoins were issued every 10 minutes for perpetuity, it is unlikely the world would be in such a frenzy to catch them while they can.
With digital scarcity as a concept now firmly seeded, the rise of collectible art – essentially images whose ownership is tied to a singular blockchain address – should come as no surprise. It would be easy to dismiss projects such as Crypto Kitties and rare Pepe cards as Beanie Babies for geeks, but these novelty concepts may just be the tip of the tail. Should blockchain-based digital art become normalized, it will be thanks to viral projects such as these.
Rewarding Artists and Creating Collectors
As any artist will assert, making a living on an internet rife with plagiarized, screen-grabbed images is difficult. Buyers have no incentive to pay for art when they can simply right click and “save as”. Collecting physical art in the real world, meanwhile, is limited to a monied, well-connected, and typically conservative audience that is the antithesis of the sort that might consider splurging $115,000 on the genesis cat, as one buyer did last week…