Every time someone walked through the door of RABBITHOLESTUDIO, I felt like pulling out my camera and taking a picture – and often, I did. “I can’t believe how many people are here,” I said to anyone who happened to be standing near me. It was an abnormally warm Thursday night in early January; art covered the walls, fake money covered the floors, and people kept coming in.
Just a few hours before the event began, one of the artists had exclaimed, “We only have twenty minutes left!” And I had wanted to panic, because it seemed like nothing would be done by the time the doors opened to the public. My own pieces were still crammed in the bottom of a bag somewhere, there was only a single hammer for every single artist to share, and someone had sat down on top of the labels that were spread out on a couch.
But somehow, we pulled it off, and by the time the first visitors arrived, all signs of the earlier chaos had disappeared.
Over twenty artists participated in the third installment of my event series, Partial Mystery. Each gallery opening in the series is centered around a single theme, in hopes of the artwork-covered walls and the social environment encouraging open discussions. “The theme inspires me for my piece,” said participating artist Penny Chu of CHUCHU NY. “It gives me a challenge to create something I haven’t done before.”
This time, I had chosen the theme of Money. “Money is really important, since it’s the way of living in many societies. I find that art is a great way to communicate ideas about money, since art also plays a large role in society,” said SONNNNIC, another artist who exhibited work on the walls of the Brooklyn gallery during the one-night event.
In the midst of the broader theme, a lot of the conversations ended up focused on Bitcoin. Edwin Rosero‘s piece called Bitcoin hung prominently in the gallery (& was consigned to Partial Mystery using ascribe, an amazing application of blockchain technology for creators), as well as several promotional posters by Maurice Doherty of the soon-to-be-launched Satoshi Graphics. And I had teamed up with the founders of Gocheto, a New York based Bitcoin advisory firm, who were eager to sponsor an event aimed at raising cryptocurrency awareness. Prior to the event, we encouraged the participating artists to accept cryptocurrency for their work and walked several of them through the process of creating a wallet. In all, fifteen of the final pieces could be purchased for Bitcoin.
While some of the attendees came from a Bitcoin background and others did not, the environment of the gallery created open attitudes towards deeper discussions regarding the problems with today’s financial system and the benefits that could be brought about with digital currencies. “The event was an exciting way of meeting people with interests in an alternative economy,” said artist Brooke McGowen. “I think the most enlightening conversation [I had] was one of the artists explaining Bitcoin to me.” McGowen created a piece for the event titled The Parasite of Wall Street, inspired by the 2008 crash: “I had a horror vision of this greedy monster destroying the economy.”
The youngest artist to participate in the event, Gabriel Diaz, is only ten years old, but he understands the future potential of Bitcoin. His piece paired paintings of extinct wildlife and outdated coins with a full-size anatomy painting of a man with bitcoins, illustrating that Bitcoin could be the way of the future. “If more people use it to purchase things and more vendors accept it as payment, it could go mainstream,” said Diaz.
James Galitsis of Dueling Clothing Company was one of the participating vendors at the event. All of the products in his sword-based clothing & accessories line can be purchased with BTC. “Simply put, Bitcoin enthusiasts are free thinkers – and that coincides well with the inspiration of artists,” he told me, illustrating one of the main reasons I first believed in the possibility of a Bitcoin art show. “And Bitcoin can benefit an artist by providing another form of exchange.”
“The most surprising [part of the night] was the amount of money that was thrown on the ground. And it looked so real! I was ready to pick it up and spend it!” Galitsis added.
The night was certainly filled with surprises. Opaque black balloons drifted around the gallery floor, and more fake money was revealed each time one was popped. Nick McManus, a photographer who goes from event to event taking just a single Polaroid, arrived to document our crowd. One of the guests showed up to everyone’s delight with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts that were snatched up in less than thirty seconds. We somehow managed to run out of our copious supply of alcohol, prompting a mid-event run to the liquor store. And I was constantly surprised by the curiosity and the passion that so many attendees had about Bitcoin and the future of payments.
As the night winded down and the artists began to leave, each took their work with them as they went. With thirty minutes left, those of us remaining began to sweep the fake bills off of the floor and remove the nails from the walls, though our conversations still buzzed about the topic of money.
And at midnight, it was over.
– Emily Braun