Bitcoin’s 12.3M-digit code turned into surreal paintings

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Bitcoin may be completely paperless, but one artist has meticulously dragged it into the physical world by hand-painting the cryptocurrency’s 12.3 million-digit founding code across 40 separate paintings.



Working under the project name Robert Alice, artist Ben Gentilli has spent three years hand-painting Bitcoin's 12.3 million-digit founding code on 40 separate canvases.


© Robert Alice
Working under the project name Robert Alice, artist Ben Gentilli has spent three years hand-painting Bitcoin’s 12.3 million-digit founding code on 40 separate canvases.

Working under the project name Robert Alice, artist Ben Gentilli spent three years working on the canvases, which he has collectively titled “Portraits of a Mind.”

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Using specialist machinery, he engraved each painting with over 300,000 digits of the complex code underpinning the virtual currency. Each digit was then hand-painted, producing what its creator calls a “digital fingerprint carved out of paint.”

“The core idea of the project was, ‘How do you make something of real cultural value within the Bitcoin sphere?'” Gentilli said via video call. “And for me, the thing I kept coming back to was this code base, because it’s really the very basis of Bitcoin culture.”

The decision to split the work across 40 different canvases was partly inspired by the decentralized nature of Bitcoin, which is issued and traded without the oversight of central banks or financial authorities. In early 2020, Gentilli sold the first 20 paintings privately to collectors from the art and technology worlds.

Those artworks are now located in countries around the world, from Switzerland to Saudi Arabia, according to a project press release.

Among the first batch of collectors was Jehan Chu, the co-founder of a blockchain venture capital investment firm, who said that the cryptocurrency’s early pioneers are “a fiercely proud and self-identifying tribe” that “until now, have lacked the cultural objects and icons to signify their tribe.”

“As an early Bitcoiner, this is the first object I am proud to hang on