Pioneering NFT Bitchcoin Is Entering the Centre Pompidou’s Collection in a Landmark Acquisition of Digital Works

In 2015, five months before the emergence of Ethereum, Sarah Meyohas minted her first 200 Bitchcoins. The blockchain-verified tokens were intended to operate as art as much as digital currency, which collectors could hold, sell, or trade for art by Meyohas—a conceptual transaction that tied the speculative worth of cryptocurrency with the subjective value of art. The young artist (and Wharton Business School grad) launched Bitchcoin at a gallery show where visitors could drop Bitcoin for her photographic works, with a press release that cheekily trumpeted: “Investing in Bitchcoin is investing in Meyohas.”

However incisive, Bitchcoin could very well have been a low-key conceptual endeavor, if not for the sensation NFTs set off in 2020. Then again, amid the resurfacing of historic blockchain-backed works, Meyohas’s name was rarely invoked in a space and marketplace dominated by top-selling, always-online male artists such as Beeple.

Sarah Meyohas. Photo: Steve Benisty.

But no more. Last month, the Centre Pompidou announced the acquisition of two Bitchcoins, which are joining 17 other NFTs being acquired by the institution in the first-ever such acquisition by a French national museum. These other works include an Autoglyph, a CryptoPunk, new works by Jill Magid and Jonas Lund, and historic digital art by Robness and Fred Forest. 

“It’s doubly exciting that my first museum acquisition can also be a historic one,” Meyohas told Midnight Publishing Group News. “I’m thrilled for each of the 12 other artists involved as well.”

The crypto artworks join the contemporary art museum’s sizable collection of new-media works, which the Pompidou has been amassing since the 1970s. For curators Macella Lista and Philippe Bettinelli, who are overseeing the Pompidou’s NFT endeavors, the acquisition entirely squares with a museum dedicated to “addressing the impulses of innovation,” they told Midnight Publishing Group News over email.

Larva Labs, CryptoPunk #110 (2017). Photo: © Larva Labs

“It is interesting to see how [this] creativity started from outside of the art world, or from the specialized domain of digital arts, before slowly echoing among the general landscape of contemporary art,” they said in a joint statement. “Artworks related to the blockchain are moving many lines and provide a critical appreciation of what is going on today.”

The museum plans to present the works as part of its permanent collection in spring this year (an online exhibition is also being gamed out for a later phase, possibly within “a specifically conceived digital space”). This showcase will occupy the fourth floor of the Pompidou where crypto art will be framed as part of the Conceptual and Minimal art traditions. As Lista and Bettinelli emphasized, “NFTs didn’t come ‘out of the blue.’”

Agnieszka Kurant, Sentimentite-Mt Gox Hack (2022). Photo: Kunstgiesserei St Gallen AG, courtesy of the artist and Zien.

While the acquisition is heavy on new projects—ranging from the conceptual, such as  Agnieszka Kurant’s Sentimentite-Mt. Gox. Hack (2022), to the accessible, namely CryptoPunk #110, donated as part of Yuga Labs’s Punks Legacy Project—pioneering NFTs are represented too.

Most prominently, there’s John F. Simon Jr.’s Every Icon (1997), Emilie Brout and Maxime Marion’s Nakamoto (The Proof) (2014), and of course, Bitchcoin. 

Sarah Meyohas, Bitchcoin #1.282 (2015 – 2021). Photo: © Sarah Meyohas, courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen.

Notably, the Pompidou’s acquisition further nods to Meyohas’s 2017 project, Cloud of Petals, which was backed by Bitchcoins. That year, the artist released reserved Bitchcoins on the occasion of her “Cloud of Petals” exhibition at Red Bull Arts in New York. There, the 3,291 tokens were linked to a similar number of physical rose petals, each meticulously plucked, photographed, and fed into an A.I. dataset capable of generating yet more images of petals. Holders could “burn” their Bitchcoin to claim its unique petal.

Again, the work explored the tension in tying a cryptocurrency to an entirely subjective view of beauty, though this time, deployed digital technologies to further examine what human labor might mean in an era of automation.

Cloud of Petals is a conceptual body of work that spans film, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, performance, data science, and photography,” said Meyohas. “It’s wonderful to see this work enter the Centre Pompidou’s collection alongside Bitchcoin, a project that proves blockchain-based work can encompass each of those and more.”

Sarah Meyohas, Cloud of Petals (2017). Photo: © Sarah Meyohas, courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen.

With its two Bitchcoins, the Pompidou intends to keep one token and exchange the other for a preserved rose petal. To Lista and Bettinelli, the project stands as “a seminal piece that touches on the core of what is at stake, which is the complete interlocking of symbolic, cultural, and financial values.” 

Indeed, while it’s taken almost a decade for her trailblazing project to receive institutional recognition, Meyohas, it seems, has been content to let Bitchcoin’s footprint do the talking.

“Sometimes the projects that don’t tweet the loudest are the most thoughtful ones,” she said. “I’m thankful that the curators at the Pompidou have the critical judgment to differentiate.”

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The Open Edition Is the Hot New Ticket on the NFT Market—Here’s What You Need to Know About the Format Renewing Collector Interest

Amid the ongoing crypto winter (will it eventually become an ice age?), one pocket of the Web3 world isn’t just thawing, it’s thriving. Meet open editions, a way of dropping NFTs that has welcomed in a fresh wave of artists and renewed enthusiasm among collectors.

Open editions aren’t new but after leading crypto art creators turned to them in 2022, their popularity duly boomed. Aided by the emergence of new NFT platforms designed to provide easy use and creative flexibility, popular open edition projects by the likes of Jack Butcher, Marcel Deneuve, and Terrell Jones pushed the trend further.

By the end of January, the overall NFT sales volume had grown more than 40 percent by some estimates. A bull run was being whispered about quite loudly in some of the internet. Kevin Abosch, who launched his first open editions on February 11 to very warm reception, offered the friendly advice: “please don’t FOMO into it… Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose!”

Here we break down what an open edition is, why they’re proving popular, and some of the landmark projects from recent years.


What’s an open edition?

An NFT with no limit to the number of editions that can be minted. This contrasts to a limited edition, which sets a cap on how many NFTs can be minted. Limited editions can range from one-of-ones to 10,000 or more editions.

Think of them as prints or photographs in traditional art-world terms, wherein editions or iterations allow for multiple collectors, while maintaining the value and uniqueness of each individual work.

Open editions (or OE in cryptoslang) aren’t, however, a limitless free-for-all. Creators usually control the time frame in which the NFT can be minted (typically a span of 24 to 72 hours). Once that time elapses, no more editions can be minted. The number of mints allowed per crypto wallet can also be capped.


Why are open editions popular?

Open editions aren’t new, Beeple dropped three way back in 2020 and NFT platform Nifty Gateway embraced them to gain stature and grow its audience. The current surge in popularity can partly be explained by a democratization push from within the NFT sphere. This movement has two main protagonists, platforms and big-name NFT artists.

New platforms, such as Zora and Manifold, have promoted open editions and prioritized making it easy for rookie NFT artists to release work with little technical know-how.

Major NFT names are drawn to the accessibility and affordability of open editions. An open edition NFT could be had for $10 or less, allowing community fans, often priced out of limited-edition collections, to get their hands (the digital kind) on work. By expanding their collector pool, artists can follow up by offering NFT holders benefits such as access to exclusive experiences, content, or further NFTs.


What do the detractors say?

The flood of creators that have entered the NFT space has provoked some snobbish ire from OG creators and collectors, particularly when newer artists with low demand are seen as trying to make quick money.

On the collector’s side, some worry that artists selling too many editions serves to deflate prices by undermining any sense of scarcity surrounding their work. Some argue it is more beneficial to release a high number of low-priced limited editions than run an open edition collection.


What are some of the most notable open editions?

Beeple’s 2020 trio of open edition NFTs (Bull Run, Infected, and Into the Ether) dropped on Nifty Gateway were priced at $969 each (he sold 601 of them), setting a precedent for big-name creator breaking from the conventional practice of limited editions.

In 2021, XCOPY, a leading crypto artist who creates glitchy and dystopic work, dropped a 90-minute-long open edition of three works (Traitors, Afterburn, and Guzzler) and raised more than $2 million. This was topped in 2022 in Max Pain, which raised $23 million in 10 minutes.

In April 2022, Drift, a NFT photographer who scales buildings and then photographs his shoes from delirious heights, minted an open edition in recognition of having being released from prison a year earlier. First Day Out sold 10,351 editions at 0.2 ETH ($6.8 million at the time).


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Ariel Pink Used an Artist’s Image on an Album Cover Without Her Consent. She Responded With a Series of Blistering NFTs

When Jill Miller found a photograph of her face had been used without her consent on an Ariel Pink album cover, she could have addressed the violation in any number of ways. Calling it out online maybe, or even bringing suit. But why do that, she reckoned, when, as an artist, she could respond with an art project?

In 2006, musician Ariel Pink released Thrash and Burn, a 36-track compilation of his late-‘90s lo-fi experiments, its cover featuring a close-up image of Miller’s face. Across her forehead was scrawled his name “ARIEL,” and beside her face the word “STINKS.” The cover art was credited to visual artist Michael Rashkow; its subject remained unnamed.

During lockdown, Miller came across her own face on Pink’s record sleeve, and was confused. She had no idea how he had come to possess the photograph—and had certainly not granted permission for her image to be used on his album cover. 

In subsequent DMs with Pink over Instagram, the L.A.-based singer simply directed Miller to Rashkow, who turned out to be her former classmate at UCLA. Back in the early 2000s, Miller was earning her MFA at the university and hosting regular open studio visits, where Rashkow likely snapped her picture.

The cover of Ariel Pink’s Thrash and Burn (2006), featuring a photograph of artist Jill Miller. Photo: HEM

That image would somehow end up in the hands of Jason Grier, the director of the music label Human Ear Music, which released Thrash and Burn (then reissued it in 2013). He claims his “next-door neighbor” designed the album’s cover, before he sought and received Pink’s sign-off on the artwork, though not Miller’s authorization.

“My initial thought was, ‘how rude,’” Miller told Midnight Publishing Group News of her reaction to seeing her face on Pink’s album sleeve. “And my follow-up thought was, ‘how predictable.’”

Her next move? Creating 50 alternate album covers of Thrash and Burn, intended to replace—and parody—the original.

Generated using A.I. software and released as NFTs, these digital works are grouped into four themes, largely centering Pink in a variety of absurd scenarios. There’s Ariel Pink as a sad clown, as a TSA agent, working at Walmart, with a pet skunk, and on a field trip to D.C. (a scene referencing the January 6 U.S. capitol riot, where Pink was in attendance), his face often warped by the algorithm. Every cover bears the phrase “ARIEL STINKS” for its added “comedic potential,” per Miller. 

Field Trip to DC, from the series “Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn).” Photo: Jill Miller.

The first part of Miller’s “Ariel Stinks” NFT series has been released on crypto art marketplace Taex in one-for-one editions, priced at 0.39 ETH (about $624) each; a second drop is planned for February 2. One cover has also been made available for free as a digital download.

“Making a series of NFTs felt like the right response to a 16-year-old album cover with my stolen image on it,” said Miller. “I wanted the series to exist in a form that resonated with 2023—which is digital music.” Buyers of the NFTs, too, will retain commercial rights to the work. 

The medium of NFTs further befits an artist, also the Assistant Professor in Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley, whose practice has been intertwined with new media. In her work, she has sought to challenge contemporary perceptions with the help of technologies from augmented reality to 3D rendering to the internet. Her foray into NFTs, she said, expands on those explorations.

“As an artist who experiments with new technologies, I was curious about NFTs existing as art without the physical object,” she explained. “I see them as being conceptually linked to early photography, video, and other art forms that confused (and later delighted) the art world.”

<em>Ariel Stars in a Horror Film</em>, from the series "Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn)." Photo: Jill Miller.

Ariel Stars in a Horror Film, from the series “Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn).” Photo: Jill Miller.

And A.I., for that matter, is “another tool in the artist’s box,” Miller said. “I think it could be used as part of a studio practice, but I don’t think it’s essential.”

For “Ariel Stinks,” she used a text-to-image generator to “imagine a number of ways that Ariel could literally stink,” before editing the output in post-production. A generated image featuring Pink on a For Wanted poster, for example, was reworked to include a quote from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Woman.

The technology, too, served as a mediating layer between artist and subject, according to Miller. “Making a portrait is quite an intimate exercise,” she said. “I used the A.I. to run interference between Ariel Pink and me… The A.I. acts as a buffer between us, so I don’t have to look too closely for too long.”

Miller is of course well-aware of the copyright litigation currently swirling generative A.I., and has covered her legal bases. According to her attorney, M.J. Bogatin, an intellectual property lawyer based in California, Ariel Stinks falls under the fair use exemption of U.S. copyright law, as the work would be considered parody. “She absolutely has the creative license to use Pink’s image, to adulterate it the way she has,” he told Billboard.

Ariel works at Walmart, from the series Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn). Photo: Jill Miller.

Ariel works at Walmart, from the series “Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn).” Photo: Jill Miller.

All 50 “Ariel Stinks” covers will be compiled and released as a coffee-table book, the culmination of Miller’s project to reclaim her image, while examining the bounds of appropriation. The act, she said, “calls into question outdated values or cultural assumptions.”

“The record preceded the #MeToo movement,” she added, “and back then men were still getting away with things that would not be allowed today.”

Grier, for his part, has apologized for “unwisely [choosing the photograph of Miller] as the cover art for the release.” Pink—who, January 6 aside, has long courted controversy by spouting statements that have been deemed racist and misogynist—called the project “a prank” and “a sort of snarky bit of revenge,” adding that it exists “to make me look bad.”

“I didn’t realize he called it a prank!” said Miller about Pink’s response. “That’s funny, but not surprising. He can’t really acknowledge it as art without accepting the underlying concept behind it, which is that he authorized his record label to use my image without my permission.”

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