Sarah Meyohas, a French American artist whose work comments on the entanglements of technology and labor, is hosting a salon on the power of NFTs during Art Basel Miami Beach with the support of Metaversal, an NFT holding company for which Meyohas is now an artist-in-residence. Meyohas will have a lot of insight to share, as she basically predicted how blockchain technologies would come to integrate with the art world when, in 2015, five months before the birth of Ethereum (the cryptocurrency on which NFTs are typically minted), she launched BitchCoin.
Meyohas first conceived of BitchCoin as a specialized cryptocurrency that would allow collectors could invest in an artist instead of a particular piece of art. At its inception, one BitchCoin cost $100 and bought an investor 25 square-inches of a print by Meyohas. (To buy one full print, someone would have to buy 25 BitchCoins.)
Mehoyas grew up in a family working in finance, and she herself went to the prestigious Wharton business school at the University of Pennsylvania, which might explain how she managed to predict how willing collectors would be to buy into artwork that they couldn’t touch or even see. In fact, these days it’s common to hear about collectors and investors buying newly launched NFTs so quickly that the image doesn’t even load by the time they’ve purchased it.
In 2017, Meyohas used the funds she had made selling BitchCoin to realize her work Cloud of Petals, a work for which she hired 16 male workers to pluck, preserve, and photograph 100,000 flower petals. These petals would be logged into a database that AI program would use to invent new, unique petals. In a sort of commentary about the influence of automation over aesthetics, Meyohas asked that each worker set aside one petal per rose that they found to be the most beautiful, and the 3,291 such petals were exhibited in a 2017 exhibition at Red Bull Arts in New York.
Six years after Meyohas launched BitchCoin, the rest of the world woke up to the economic potential of the NFTs. Meyohas had minted 200 BitchCoins at the start, but when the market kicked up, she migrated BitchCoin over to Ethereum and minted 3,291 new BitchCoins, with the motto “Backed by Petal” inscribed on the back. In May, 480 of the newly minted BitchCoins were auctioned in a Philips sale for nearly $400,000. The rest of the BitchCoins were available for sale on the NFT trading platform OpenSea.
On Thursday at Art Basel Miami Beach, Meyohas will be in conversation with various NFT experts to further see how artists can harness the power of crypto. The salon will consist of three short panels with crypto experts like Alex Zhang, the Mayor of Friends with Benefits, a social club where members must be holders of FWB coin, and Lindsay Howard, the head of community at the NFT platform Foundation.
In a press release about the event, Mehoyas said, “We are at the forefront of a mass disruption of the art world and market. With this salon, I am thrilled to bring together thought leaders in the NFT space to cultivate discourse about the future of artists and the structures they engage in.”