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There have been numerous credulous stories in the art press promoting the idea that the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin will be easily adapted to the art market. The result will increase transparency and reduce some of the problems with art transactions.
That view—which is convenient for the companies promoting their concepts—is somewhat naive. The problem has been how to illustrate the spurious comparisons being made. On the one hand, you have what bitcoin hopes to achieve: let electronic cash function as cash.
On the other hand, you have what the art world is fantasizing about: creating an armature of information surrounding works of art that is authoritative, detailed and secure. Let's call it "artcoin."
These two ambitions are not actually compatible. And there's finally a good example that is familiar to us all but reveals the weaknesses of the bitcoin model for the art market. Let's break that down.
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