Conceptual Art and Bitcoins or: Where is my Money!

March 29, 2015

There are many conceptual art examples questioning the relationship between art and money, and criticizing the sometimes hypocritical attitude the collectors and galleries have towards art. With financial and economic crisis affecting the world, conceptual artists are addressing the question of money misuse in the world of art, similarly as ordinary people are criticizing the banking and financial sectors. Conceptual artists do the same thing within the context of art, since high art and high finance go hand in hand. There are a number of amazing conceptual art examples that perfectly represent the complex relationship between money and art, and works aiming to find alternative ways for art work circulation outside the art market and its rules and norms.

bitcoin 2015 like media currency
Sol LeWitt - Certificates (courtesy of

Art and Money

Conceptual art is probably the most critical oriented art form. It poses questions, deconstructs rules and narratives, and critically approaches to traditional artistic norms and values. It’s not easy to be a conceptual artist, because they question the system of art in general in which the conceptual artists themselves belong. Many would say conceptual art is not an art at all. Yet, there is no authority that could determine what art is and what is not. It is quite clear that conceptual art is not so popular at art market. Some would say it’s boring, there is no aesthetics, everybody could be artist in “conceptual art world”, etc. Of course, it is sometimes difficult to buy a conceptual art work, since it often is not represented in physical state. However, it can be that big collectors and art market dealers do not want to see the dark side of art and art market system. The works by contemporary art superstars like Jeff Koons or James Turrell are being sold to oil oligarchs and other billionaires. Old works by great Masters of modern art are often being present at black market. The money laundering is often being linked with art market. These issues are subjects of some extraordinary conceptual art works.

bitcoin 2015 like media currency
Nanex - High Frequency Trading, 2010 (courtesy of

Conceptual Art Examples and Art Market

Nanex's work is a perfect example of critical and even subversive role conceptual art has at art market. The sale of his High Frequency Trading visualizations is a conceptual art example that is a piece of art itself. It was sold to a group including the artist and their dealer, making the actual figure and its ownership less straightforward than a simple sale would suggest. The artist’s High Trading visualizations from 2010 look inside transactions in electronic stocks and shares markets, finding aesthetic forms in the activity of share trading bots. By doing this, the artist opens a space for a reflection of economic activities at art market. Similar conceptual art example is the work by Lynn Hershman. The artist’s Check from 1974 is signed by her artistic alter ego Roberta Breitmore, using financial transactions and their attendant contracts as a producer and guarantor of identity, literally underwriting it. The question of (in)famous certificates was addressed by Sol LeWitt, another conceptual art example exposing the possibilities of forgery at art market.

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Rob Myers - Is Art, 2014 (courtesy of

Bitcoins Value

It’s easy to criticize, whereas finding alternative solutions is more difficult. Many conceptual artists developed their work on possibilities of bitcoins value. Bitcoin emerged as a critique of state-issued "fiat" currency following the financial crisis of 2008. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a piece of software that runs on computers ("nodes") spread across the network that communicate with each other to reach a shared consensus on the current state of a cryptographically-secured ledger. As all cryptocurrencies, bitcoins value can be created as complimentary currencies with specific intent or for specific constituencies. For many artists, including Rob Myers, Caleb Larsen and others, bitcoins value can be seen as an alternative way of circulation of artworks outside of art market. By examining the bitcoins value, the conceptual artists dealing with the relationship between art and money deconstruct the traditional ways of art trade that indeed may be harmful to art itself.

Conceptual Art and Bitcoins Value or: Where is my Money!
Carey Young - Declared Void, 2005 (courtesy of

Money as Piece of Art

Money (coins, notes) sometimes can be perceived as a piece of art. For example, drawings on bank notes can be understood as art practice, no matter what the reasons for such actions are. However, the conceptual art examples that we mentioned above are raising another interesting question. While critically addressing the massive accumulation of pieces of art and money at art market, some conceptual artists are opening space for representation of new type of money that might be dominating in near future. As conceptual art examples dealing with the bitcoins value show, it is not so difficult to conclude that traditional characteristics of money are changing. The use of bitcoins is growing, and it’s not impossible to imagine the nature of money itself will change. The conceptual art examples dealing with bitcoins value are artistic works. Similarly, new types of money replacing traditional coins and notes could be seen as pieces of art as well, or conceptual artists would argue so. It’s all about the concept, isn’t it? However, auctions are still going on, and the art market is functioning without major problems. To learn more about the upcoming auction, go here.

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Lynn Herschman - Check, 1974 (courtesy of

Featured Image: Bitcoin (courtesy of

All Images used for illustrative purposes.