Museum Becomes First To Buy Art With Bitcoin

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Bitcoin buys more than just heroin and assault rifles these days, as the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art became the first museum to buy art with Bitcoin.

The piece, Dutch artist Harm van den Dorpel’s “Event Listeners,” is a limited-edition, algorithm-generated screen saver.

“Nowadays screen savers do not have to protect screens anymore, as the quality and technology of digital screens have improved significantly,” said Mr. Van den Dorpel in a statement. “They are completely useless, and might therefore exist in the same space as art.”

The screen saver art was created for the March 31 panel, “MAK NITE Lab Digital Superposition – The File as an Object.” The panel hosted talks covering contemporary art, artificial intelligence, and art law. It was displayed on the online gallery cointemporary.com, an online gallery that specializes in selling art for Bitcoin. The work will be presented in an upcoming show at the Austrian museum titled, “24/7 – The Human Condition.”

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency system, or cryptocurrency, created in 2008. Bitcoins are mined by users who offer their computing power to verify and record Bitcoin payments in a public ledger.

The growth in Bitcoin as payment for products and services has grown in the past few years, despite its popularity in illegal transactions. Websites that accept the currency include WordPress, OKCupid, Expedia, and Microsoft. There are more than 380 Bitcoin ATMs across the world, according to Coin ATM Radar, with an average fee of 5.4%.

Currently, more than 14 million Bitcoins are in circulation, with that number expected to reach more than 18 million by the end of 2016 and stabilize at just under 21 million by sometime in the 2030s.

One Bitcoin is currently worth approximately US$235. However, the currency’s value has been extremely volatile in its short lifetime. The currency rapidly shot up from about one Bitcoin per 30 U.S. cents to one per US$32, before returning to US$2. Its value continued to rise, and by December 2013 Bitcoin traded for as high as US$1,242.

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