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  • "The petals are the proof of work." —Sarah Meyohas

    INTO THE ETHER


    Predating the launch of Ethereum by five months, in February 2015 conceptual artist Sarah Meyohas released Bitchcoin, one of the first ever tokenizations of art. The prescient audacity of the project garnered considerable attention and was featured in Vice and Wired, among other publications. According to critic Tim Schneider, “blockchain-based work probably first surfaced in art-world consciousness in the form of Sarah Meyohas’s Bitchcoin.”1 Meyohas’s creation of cryptocurrency as art, minted on her own proof-of-work blockchain, engaged with the ownership and utility of art in the digital future, but the intrinsic connection between each Bitchcoin and its constituent artwork necessitated non-fungibility, creating the one of the world’s first NFTs as early as 2015.

     

    Now, six years later, the artist is migrating Bitchcoin from its native chain to Ethereum, releasing 480 reserved Bitchcoins backed by art from her seminal Cloud of Petals exhibition at Red Bull Arts New York. Five bundles of Bitchcoins will be offered at auction: the first comprising 160 tokens and four subsequent bundles each containing 80 tokens. Each Bitchcoin is backed by a relic created from a rose petal from Cloud of Petals and is uniquely registered on the Ethereum blockchain. While Bitchcoins are artworks in their own right, these tokens are backed by the Cloud of Petals relics; if one chooses to redeem their Bitchcoin for a physical relic, their coin will be destroyed, or “burned,” establishing the symbiotic value of token and backing.

     

    MINTING A MARVEL


    When she originally released Bitchcoin, Meyohas was a recent graduate of the prestigious Wharton School completing her MFA at Yale University. Thinking deeply about art, markets, and her own agency in the art world, Meyohas considered the speculative value of cryptocurrency in relation to the subjective value of art; by minting artworks as cryptocurrency to create cryptocurrency as art, Meyohas reclaimed agency over her own market, a feminist appropriation of a male-dominated technology. Thus, Bitchcoin was born. The blockchain-verified nature of the coin, moreover, ensured the uniqueness of each part—coin as well as artwork—and established essentially the proto-NFT, a distinctive artwork registered on the blockchain, even before the advent of Ethereum. Those who invested in Bitchcoin could hold them, sell them, or trade them in for work by the artist, at which point the surrendered Bitchcoin would be burned.

     

     

    Although pioneering in every sense, Meyohas’s innovation exists in the grand tradition of conceptual art. Bitchcoin recalls Yves Klein’s Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle, performances involving the sale of documentation of ownership of empty space for gold where Klein produced receipts of sale verifying that the transfer of the intangible had taken place. The purchaser acquired an ethereal asset, and, more importantly, acquired verification that the transfer had occurred.

     

    Yves Klein transferring a Zone of Immaterial Pictural Sensibility to Dino Buzzati, Paris, January 26, 1962 Photo Credit: Harry Shunk and Janos Kender J.Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. (2014.R.20) © The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris

     

    Klein’s “Ritual Rules,” however, dictated that each purchaser had two options following the sale: If they only paid the stipulatory amount of gold, Klein kept all of the bullion and the buyer did not acquire the full "authentic immaterial value" of the work; conversely, if the buyer purchased the immaterial zone and burned the receipt in an elaborate ritual on the Seine, Klein would throw half of the gold away into the river and full immateriality was achieved.2 Trading one absurd commodity for another—gold, valued for its ostensible preciousness, and imaginary space, intangible to both buyer and seller—Klein illuminated the inarticulable value of art and probed the merits of objective value.

    "Images have currency. Ideas have currency. It’s only when they circulate, when they are exchanged, that realities come into view." —Sarah Meyohas

    A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME


    This series of Bitchcoins is backed by the artist’s 2017 Cloud of Petals project, a present-day happening in a former temple to Progress. Cloud of Petals explored the future of labor in the face of automation and weighed the paradox of subjective valuations of beauty. Meyohas employed 16 male workers for a data collection ritual at the former R&D center of Bell Laboratories, a soaring steel and glass structure by Eero Saarinen. The men meticulously plucked, preserved, and photographed 100,000 rose petals to amass a dataset for artificial intelligence capable of algorithmically producing new, unique petals ad infinitum. Injecting human subjectivity into the equation, the workers set aside the one petal per rose they considered most beautiful, creating a taxonomy of individual aesthetic value. The 3,291 chosen petals were exhibited as the centerpiece of the artist’s 2017 exhibition Cloud of Petals at Red Bull Arts New York.

     

    The petals are the documentation of the performance; materially limited and unique, they are the proof-of-work of Cloud of Petals. As each Bitchcoin is backed by a relic from this project, the value of the cryptocurrency is tied to the inarticulable value of art, continuing the symbiotic call and response that established Bitchcoin as one of the world’s earliest NFTs. 

     

    Shots from the Cloud of Petals Event at Bell Works

  • 1 Tim Schneider, “Cryptocurrencies, Explained: Why Artists Are Already Leaving Bitcoin Behind for Something Bigger”, artnet News, February 6, 2018, online

    2  Olivier Berggruen, Max Hollein, and Ingrid Pfeiffer, eds., Yves Klein, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2004, p. 221

  • FAQs

    How do I create an online bidding account?

    If you do not have an existing Phillips online bidding account, you can create one by providing the information requested on our registration page. In order to register, you are required to supply the information requested on the registration page, including a valid credit card and other information and verification information required by Phillips, which is outlined in our Conditions of Sale. Please allow a minimum of 24 hours prior to the close of the auction to begin the registration and approval process.

    Which currency will bidding be denominated in? 

    The online-only auction will be conducted and invoiced in US dollars (USD).

    What forms of payment are accepted? 

    Payments are due in either USD or in Ether. Each bidder will be responsible for conducting their own U.S. Dollar to Ether cryptocurrency conversion throughout the online-only auction and at the time of each of their bids, and you acknowledge and agree that cryptocurrency rates fluctuate regularly and the conversion rate may change during the course of the online-only auction and you are responsible for the payment of a winning bid at the rate of exchange at the time of the close of the online-only auction, and not at a previous rate of exchange. 

    Can I leave my bid at an amount that is not on the ‘PLACE MAX BID’ drop down menu?    

    No. All bidding in an online-only auction must be done on our standard bidding increments, as shown on the drop-down menu.

    When does bidding close?

    The online-only auction is scheduled to close at noon EDT on Friday, May 28th starting with lot 1. The auction will have a rolling close, with each lot closing two minutes after the previous lot. Our online-only auction also features dynamic bidding, also known as “Popcorn Bidding." If a bid is made within two minutes of the auction's scheduled closing time, Popcorn Bidding automatically extends the scheduled closing time for each lot for another two minutes after the bid is made. Each subsequent bid resets the clock to allow bids to be made for another two minutes. Once there has been no bidding activity for two minutes, the bidding is considered completed and no further bidding is accepted.

    How is the total purchase price calculated?

    If you are the successful bidder and buyer of the NFT, you agree to pay us the Hammer Price of the lot, the Buyer’s Premium and any applicable sales tax (the “Purchase Price”). The Hammer Price is the final, highest bid accepted for the NFT when the Phillips closes bidding during the Bitchcoin by Sarah Meyohas online-only auction.
     
    The Buyer’s Premium is the commission Phillips charges the successful highest bidder and buyer of the NFT and is calculated on the Hammer Price of the NFT as follows: Twenty-six percent (26%) of the portion of the Hammer Price up to and including $600,000; and Twenty-one percent (21%) of the portion of the Hammer Price above $600,000 up to and including $6,000,000 and 14.5% of the portion of the Hammer Price above $6,000,000.

    Are there resale royalties due to the artist on secondary market sales?      

    On any subsequent resale of each NFT, the successful bidder and buyer at the online-only auction may be obligated on Seller’s behalf to collect and remit to Seller resale royalties as applicable, equal to 5% of the sale price of each NFT. Other resale royalties and transaction duties imposed by law may also apply in relation to such resales.

    Which digital wallets are compatible with Bitchcoin?

    Bitchcoins are ERC-1155 non-fungible tokens and are compatible with all Ethereum-based digital wallets.

    PLEASE NOTE THAT BY REGISTERING TO BID YOU AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING:

    • You are bidding as principal and not on behalf of anyone else

    • You have a wallet capable of supporting and accemting an ERC-155 token

    • You accept and understand that payment can be made in Ether only if made:

      • from a single wallet registered to you;

      • using funds belonging to you; and

      • maintained by one of the following:

        • Coinbase Custody Trust;

        • Coinbase, Inc.;

        • Fidelity Digital Assets Services, LLC;

        • Gemini Trust Company, LLC; or

        • Paxos Trust Company, LLC.

     
    Payments from digital wallets hosted at other exchanges or self-hosted wallets will not be recognised or accepted and in such circumstances payment will be required in US dollars.
     
    If you are the successful bidder you agree to provide us with all information and documentation we request in order to verify your identity and to confirm that the Ether payment was made from a digital wallet registered in your name and maintained at by one of the platforms above. Partial payments of a lot from multiple digital wallets will not be accepted.

     

    Please view the full Conditions of Sale, NFTs.

    • Provenance

      The Artist

    • Artist Biography

      Sarah Meyohas

      Sarah Meyohas is a conceptual artist whose practice considers the nature and capabilities of emerging technologies in contemporary society. Using the familiar emblems of biological life, Meyohas investigates the complex operations that increasingly govern our world: soaring birds, created using augmented-reality software, flock in unison with the frenetic variations of the stock market; rose petals, aggregately identical but individually unique, comprise the dataset for their AI-created equivalents; Bitchcoin, a cryptocurrency backed by physical artworks, questions the speculative value of cryptocurrency and the ineffable value of art. Meyohas creates an intelligible visual language to articulate the systems and technologies that increasingly influence our world.

       

      Meyohas’s work has been exhibited in New York at Red Bull Arts, 303 Gallery, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art and internationally at institutions including the Barbican Centre, London, the Jameel Arts Center, Dubai, and the Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai. She has been featured in The New York Times, Vice, and Artforum, and has appeared on CNBC, PBS, and CBC. Her film Cloud of Petals has been screened at various film festivals around the world, including the Slamdance Film Festival and the Locarno Film Festival. In 2017 she was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Meyohas holds dual degrees in Finance and International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and in 2015 received her M.F.A. from Yale University.

       
      View More Works

1

160 Bitchcoins (01.011–16.020)

Token IDs: 01.011...16.020
Contract Address: 0x5e8...1874

Non-Fungible Tokens (ERC-1155)
each MP4: 5 MB (5,016,359 bytes), 1080x1080px, HD, 00:05
Minted on May 21, 2021, each work is unique.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate On Request

Sold for $113,400

Contact Specialist

Rebekah Bowling

Senior Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session

20th Century & Contemporary Art

New York

1 212 940 1250
[email protected]

Sarah Meyohas, "Bitchcoin"