The Artist Who Guides His Art with Crypto-Tokens
By Sophie Haigney
The Swedish artist Jonas Lund has an exhibition in September, and, like all artists, he wanted to decide what the art should look like. So he gave his shareholders four choices, all variations on a single piece of plywood. The first option is the simplest: an engraved piece of natural-colored plywood. The second is similar, but painted a metallic gray. The third would have the plywood decorated with birds, and would include bullet points that explain Lund’s process. In the fourth variation, he would paint the plywood and then “burn it in a controlled way to create something very fragile.”
This choose-your-own-adventure scenario is part of complex system of ownership that Lund is trying to establish over his artistic process. Last spring, he created a hundred thousand Jonas Lund Tokens, or J.L.T.s, using a blockchain—a technology that records a series of transactions across a large open network, and can be used to create currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ether. The J.L.T.s are owned by a board of trustees, who vote on Lund’s artistic and professional decisions. Should Lund show one of his pieces at the pop-up Museum of Pizza in New York this fall? (Yes, the trustees voted, using their tokens. So he is.)
Shareholders voted and selected the third option: birds and text, presented under the headline “Decentralized Autonomous Artistic Practice.” The final piece, when created, will correlate to a thousand and forty-one Jonas Lund Tokens; anyone who buys it will also become a shareholder in Lund’s practice. Like much crypto-art—a sphere that’s been growing as cryptocurrency has boomed—Lund’s work lives in the space between commentary and participation. He is critiquing the art market, but he’s also allowing the token to dictate a substantive portion of his professional, personal, and artistic life.