A Physical Model for Digital Art Ownership — The CryptoPunks in their First Gallery Show

How the CryptoPunks took physical form to participate in their first Gallery show.

We’re excited to announce that the CryptoPunks are currently participating in their first gallery show, { PERFECT & PRICELESS } - VALUE SYSTEMS ON THE BLOCKCHAIN at the Kate Vass Galerie. We’re honored to be appearing alongside some of the early protagonists of blockchain art, and notable artists such as Ai Weiwei and Kevin Abosch.

However, when first asked about participating we hesitated. The CryptoPunks are a distinctly digital work, comprising both the image of the characters and the blockchain mechanisms for ownership and auction. We weren’t sure how to show them in a physical gallery setting while preserving their digital nature and what makes them unique.

The solution we eventually settled on attaches the digital ownership of a CryptoPunk to a physical print using something called a “Paper Wallet.” This means we seal a long passphrase inside a physical envelope, then seal the back with a custom wax seal to protect the contents. The long passphrase inside the envelope is the key to accessing digital ownership of this punk on the Ethereum blockchain. As long as the wax seal on the envelope is undisturbed you can be sure that the digital version of the art is still attached to the physical print in your possession. You are then free to buy and sell the physical print and envelope as a proxy for the digital edition.

This connection between digital ownership and physical representation seems to have a lot of potential and we plan on exploring its potential in future work. Overall, it seems like it could provide a solution for digital rarity and ownership both online and offline.