Operationalizing curation, after a presentation by the excellent Mohammad Salemy.

The source code uses’s API to find and rank similar artists and extract their shared themes.

Here’s an example:

2000-present (29), United States (26), Painting (26), Popular Culture (19), Appropriation (18), Contemporary Pop (16), Mixed-Media (14), Cultural Commentary (13), Human Figure (13), Engagement with Mass Media (13), Sculpture (12), Figurative Painting (12), Installation Art (11), Advertising and Brands (10).

Elizabeth Peyton (0.44)

(American, 1965)

1990s, Abstract versus Figurative Art, Childhood, Engagement with Mass Media, Figurative Art, Figurative Painting, Glamour, Group of Portraits, Individual Portrait, Painting, Photographic Source, Popular Culture, Portrait, Related to Fashion, United States, Work on Paper.

Richard Phillips (0.44)

(American, 1962)

2000-present, Appropriation, Art in Art, Bright/Vivid, Cinematic, Contemporary Pop, Drawing, Engagement with Mass Media, Erotic, Figurative Painting, Glamour, Human Figure, Nude, Oil Painting, Painting, Photographic Source, Popular Culture, Portrait, Provocative, Related to Fashion, Related to Film, United States, Work on Paper.

Bäst (0.40)

(American )

2000-present, Abstract versus Figurative Art, Advertising and Brands, Americana, Appropriation, Bright/Vivid, Collage, Comic/Cartoon, Consumerism, Contemporary Faux Naïf, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Face, Graffiti/Street Art, Human Figure, Hybrids and Imaginary Creatures, Layered Images, Mixed-Media, Multiple Styles, Painting, Patterns, Popular Culture, Printed Matter, Silkscreen, Site Specific Art, Text, The Fantastic, Typography, United States, Use of Vintage Imagery.

Jim Thompson (0.40)


2000-present, Advertising and Brands, Americana, Appropriation, Contemporary Pop, Contemporary Traces of Memory, Engagement with Mass Media, Figurative Art, Figurative Painting, Nostalgia, Oil Painting, Painting, Personal Histories, Photographic Source, Popular Culture, Representation of Everyday Objects, Sports/Athletics, United States.

David Kramer (0.40)

(American, 1963)

Advertising and Brands, Americana, Appropriation, Consumerism, Contemporary Pop, Engagement with Mass Media, Figurative Painting, Figurative Sculpture, Kitsch, Leisure, Mixed-Media, Painting, Photographic Source, Popular Culture, Representation of Everyday Objects, Sculpture, United States, Work on Paper.

Francesco Vezzoli (0.40)

(Italian, 1971)

2000-present, Advertising and Brands, Appropriation, Consumerism, Contemporary Conceptualism, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Figurative Painting, Film/Video, Glamour, Human Figure, Italy, Mixed-Media, Myth/Religion, Nostalgia, Painting, Popular Culture, Provocative, Related to Fashion, Related to Film.

Russell Young (0.40)

(British, 1959)

Appropriation, Bright/Vivid, Celebrity, Color Photography, Cultural Commentary, Engagement with Mass Media, Glittery, Individual Portrait, Photography, Popular Culture, Portrait, Provocative, Silkscreen, United Kingdom and Ireland, United States, Unsettling.

James Rawson (0.36)

2000-present, Advertising and Brands, Appropriation, Consumerism, Contemporary Graphic Realism, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Dense Composition, Engagement with Mass Media, Figurative Art, Figurative Painting, Human Figure, Oil Painting, Painting, Popular Culture, Text.

Kelley Walker (0.36)

(American, 1969)

1990s, Advertising and Brands, Appropriation, Bright/Vivid, Contemporary Pop, Dense Composition, Engagement with Mass Media, Installation Art, Mixed-Media, Painting, Photographic Source, Popular Culture, Racial and Ethnic Identity, Sculpture, Silkscreen, United States, Use of Common Materials.

Robert Mars (0.32)


2000-present, Advertising and Brands, Americana, Appropriation, Art in Art, Celebrity, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Engagement with Mass Media, Human Figure, Layered Images, Mixed-Media, Painting, Printed Matter, Text, United States.

Leslie Holt (0.32)

(American , 1969)

2000-present, Appropriation, Collective History, Consumerism, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Engagement with Mass Media, Figurative Painting, Food, Humor, Kitsch, Mixed-Media, Oil Painting, Painting, Popular Culture, Text, The Fantastic, United States.

Ryan McGinness (0.32)

(American, 1972)

2000-present, Abstract versus Figurative Art, Advertising and Brands, Bright/Vivid, Calligraphic, Consumerism, Contemporary Graphic Realism, Contemporary Pop, Design, Engagement with Mass Media, Erotic, Human Figure, Layered Images, Painting, Patterns, Popular Culture, Psychedelic, Sculpture, Silkscreen, United States, Work on Paper.

Kim Dong Yoo (0.32)

(Korean, 1965)

1990s, 2000-present, Appropriation, Celebrity, Contemporary Pop, Group of Portraits, Human Figure, Individual Portrait, Korea, Painting, Photographic Source, Photography, Political Figures, Popular Culture, Process-Oriented, Repetition.

Jack Early (0.28)

1990s, 2000-present, Americana, Celebrity, Contemporary Pop, Erotic, Figurative Art, Figurative Painting, Figurative Sculpture, Installation Art, Nude, Painting, Personal Histories, Popular Culture, Sculpture, United States.

Kim Luttrell (0.28)

(American, 1965)

2000-present, Appropriation, Collage, Collective History, Contemporary Graphic Realism, Contemporary Pop, Figurative Painting, Glamour, Human Figure, Individual Portrait, Mixed-Media, Painting, Popular Culture, Portrait, United States, Work on Paper.

Ronnie Cutrone (0.28)

(American, 1948)

1980s, Advertising and Brands, Comic/Cartoon, Cultural Commentary, Drawing, Engagement with Mass Media, Humor, Mixed-Media, Painting, Pop Art, Popular Culture, Representation of Everyday Objects, United States, Watercolor.

Douglas Gordon (0.28)

(Scottish, 1966)

1990s, Appropriation, Celebrity, Color Photography, Contemporary Conceptualism, Contemporary Gothic, Contemporary Pop, Cultural Commentary, Film/Video, Installation Art, Mixed-Media, Personal Histories, Photography, Popular Culture, Provocative, Relational Aesthetics, Repetition, Self-Portrait, United Kingdom and Ireland, United States, Unsettling.

Philip Hanson (0.20)

(American, 1943)

1960s, 1970s, Appropriation, Art Brut, Chicago Imagists, Comic/Cartoon, Etching/Engraving, Human Figure, Humor, Interiors, Outsider Art, Painting, Pop Art, Still Life, Text, United States, Work on Paper.

Sylvie Fleury (0.20)

(Swiss, 1961)

1990s, Appropriation, Color Photography, Contemporary Participation, Contemporary Pop, Film/Video, Found Objects, Glamour, Humor, Installation Art, Mixed-Media, Photography, Popular Culture, Provocative, Related to Fashion, Sculpture, Switzerland, Typography, Use of Common Materials.

John Ashbery (0.20)

(American, 1927)

1960s, Appropriation, Collage, Comic/Cartoon, Contemporary Pop, Contemporary Surrealistic, Human Figure, Illustration/Art, Mixed-Media, Pop Art, Popular Culture, The Fantastic, United States.

Duke Riley (0.16)

(American, 1972)

2000-present, City Scenes, Collective History, Conflict, Contemporary Conceptualism, Crime, Cultural Commentary, Drawing, Figurative Painting, Figures in Nature, Human Figure, Humor, Interactive, Mixed-Media, Modernizing of Traditional Technique, Modes of Transportation, Mosaics, Narrative, Nature, Nostalgia, Painting, Performance Art, Photography, United States, Water, Work on Paper.

Jim Morgan (0.16)

2000-present, Animals, Contemporary Academic Realism, Figurative Art, Figurative Painting, Landscapes, Nature, Oil Painting, Painting, United States, Water, Waterscapes.

Chuong Thanh (0.12)

2000-present, Abstract versus Figurative Art, Bright/Vivid, Figurative Art, Flatness, Fragmented Geometry, Human Figure, Painting, Picassoesque, Southeast Asia.

duane paul (0.12)

1990s, 2000-present, Abstract Art, Abstract Sculpture, Abstract versus Figurative Art, Assemblage, Decay, Figurative Art, Language, Personal Writing Systems, Process-Oriented, Racial and Ethnic Identity, Recycled, Sculpture, Sexual Identity, United States, Use of Common Materials, Wall Sculpture and Installation.

Matt Magee (0.12)

(American, 1961)

1990s, 2000-present, Abstract Art, Appropriation, Biomorphic, Collecting and Modes of Display, Contemporary Conceptualism, Found Objects, France, Hard-Edged, Language, Painting, Personal Histories, Personal Writing Systems, Sculpture, United States, Work on Paper.

Daniel Joseph (0.12)

2000-present, Contemporary Conceptualism, Diaristic, Engagement with Mass Media, Installation Art, Interactive, Line, Form and Color, Painting, Personal Histories, Sculpture, Text, United States.

Jane Hammond (0.12)

(American, 1950)

Abstract Art, Abstract Painting, Collage, Collecting and Modes of Display, Drawing, Language, Mixed-Media, Painting, Photographic Source, Printed Matter, Process-Oriented, Related to Literature, United States, Use of Common Materials.

Brendan Murphy (0.12)


2000-present, Abstract Art, Bright/Vivid, Calligraphic, Drawing, Flora, Human Figure, Mixed-Media, Nature, Painting, Portrait, Sports/Athletics, United States.

All data via’s API.

Shareable Readymades At “Common Property”

Antonio Roberts, Dead Copyright, 2015. Courtesy the artist
Antonio Roberts, Dead Copyright, 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Jerwood Encounters: Common Property


Curated by Hannah Pierce, Jerwood Encounters: Common Property seeks to demonstrate how artists engage with and relate to copyright through the work of six emerging and mid-career artists, including three new commissions. The exhibition and accompanying events programme seeks to generate new conversations about how copyright is currently impacting the way visual artists make and distribute their work, and demonstrates how artists are challenging the limitations of copyright through their practice.

Prints of Urinal, Balloon Dog and Pipe are in the show.

There’s also a new image in the catalogue that I created specially for it, I’ll talk more about that when it is released.

Back To WordPress

I’ve moved back to WordPress from Jekyll for this blog.

For a resource heavy site with 2000+ posts I couldn’t get the deploy time down to less than 25 seconds (from over three minutes when I was using templates and plugins badly). There’s also the cognitive load of running commands through bundle and some outstanding technical debt in how I’ve organized the repository.

So I’ve moved this year’s articles over to my WordPress blog, maintaining their publication times, and switched back to pointing to it.

Jekyll is excellent and is very fast when used properly, I will continue to use and recommend it (check for more information about the project). It is however in my opinion not the best blogging engine at this time, but then it’s not intended to be. So the take-away here is to use the correct tool for the job, and that may well be Jekyll in other cases.

The Fractality Of Discourse

Texts exist in discursive space

They contain other texts as quotations and references, self-similar scaled copies.

Major texts are attractors in this space.

Some are singularities that neither light nor heat can escape.

Others are strange attractors that draw endless asymptotic vacillation.

It’s the fractality of discourse.

(After the 1992 original.)

Ethereum Art Ecosystem

(Sketch from June 2015, unpublished until now.)

The Blockchain is an obvious medium for storing titles to property beyond currency. This includes property titles for artworks, particularly digital artworks. But there is nothing smart about using smart contracts for that. Rather than seeking to bring the failings of DRM to the blockchain, we should seek to use smart contracts to formalize more interesting economies of relationships between art and its audiences.

The Basics


Everything is an item.


Every item has an owner. This is simply an Ethereum address from which instruction transactions will be obeyed. They can be implemented as basically as a GUI for a human operator or by complex blockchain or oracle systems.


Many items can have a pseudo-spatial relationship to other items, containing them in the way that a gallery contains a show or a magazine contains a review for example. This is distinct from the control relationship of ownership.

An item’s container is its location.

Purchasing an instance of an artwork makes the purchaser the container for that instance, not the owner of the artwork contract.


Smart artworks are the self-driving cars or High Frequency Trading Algorithms of the smart contract/smart property artworld. Their most important feature is that they manage their own exhibition and sale – they evaluate offers and make the decision whether to accept them or not automatically.


An artwork can simulate scarcity or manage exposure by having a limited edition size. This is a count of the number of instances of the artwork that be included in containers at one time. An edition size of one is a unique artwork.

When an artwork is sold or exhibited this doesn’t decrease the edition size but does reduce the amount of the edition available to be sold or exhibited simultaneously.


The provenance of an artwork is its sale, exhibition, and critical history. All of these are stored on the blockchain as a natural result of their operation (and as recorded Ethereum “events”).



An artwork can be queried to find which Containers currently hold instances of it. This can be used to authenticate displayed artworks. Authentication information can be displayed in the interface or accompanying materials for an exhibition.


Artworks can (weakly) control exhibition by storing their assets on an IP-locked website and only allowing a whitelist of addresses to access it. Containers provide an IP address and proxy their exhibition of the artwork through that.

This is obviously subject to IP spoofing and cannot prevent downloading but provides an example of a system of this kind of thing for people who want it.

Sale and Exhibition

Collections can make offers to artworks to permanently purchase or temporarily exhibit them.

It is up to the artwork to decide whether they accept the offer or not.

Purchased instances of an artwork may also allow their owners to veto or suggest their sale or exhibition.

Simple Offers

A simple offer to purchase consists of a price.

A simple offer to exhibit consists of a time, a duration and a fee.

The artwork can accept or decline the offer based on availability, whether the price or fee is sufficient, and any external information about the address the offer was sent from (e.g. an external blacklist).

Tagged Offers

Tagged offers are an example of a slightly more flexible system for artworks to decide whether to accept an offer or not.

The collection makes an offer formatted as a dictionary of key/value pairs. The artwork then evaluates this offer, most simply by comparing it against its own tag dictionary (and for price, etc as with a simple offer).

The disadvantage of this method is that the tag values must be trusted by the artwork. This can be addressed by a trusted third party signing the tags, or by a SchellingCoin-style evaluation of the tags.

Exhibition Fees

Artworks receive fees for being exhibited (these can be set to zero if desired). They can pass these on to the owner of their contract (presumably the artist).

Resale Refusal and Fees

Artworks can veto sales as well as exhibitions. They can also take a percentage of any sale price, simulating the Droit de Suite/Artist’s Resale Right (this can be set to zero if desired).


Collections are containers. They contain artworks. Shows, museums and galleries are all collections.

Temporary and permanent collections feature artworks loaned for exhibition or purchased to be held in museum or personal collections.

Collections have selection and acceptance policies.

Exhibitions, auctions, awards, competitions and commissions are containers.


An exhibition occurs at an institution. It contains a particular number of artworks for a particular duration (which may be perpetual).

The exhibition must offer artworks an exhibition fee and details of its duration. For more complex schemes it must provide the artwork with further information, for example the dictionary required by “Tagged Offers”.

For the duration of the exhibition, the artwork will register it as the container for one of its instances.


Auctions are containers which can accept and enforce bids up until a time limit. The placing and any extra evaluation of bids is handled by other contracts.


Awards are containers of works entered for the award, with the actual award allocated by oracle, Schelling Coin or other auditor contract.


Turner Prize-style competitions combine exhibitions with an award at the end, allocated by oracle, Schelling Coin or other auditor contract.


Commissions specify requirements as tags and offer a price for satisfying them as confirmed by a Schellin Coin or other auditor contract.


Reviewers produce 5-star reviews of artworks, with a brief title.

These are aggregated by Collections and may be referred to by the artwork.

They can be filtered by reviewer reputation.


With just a few basic types of contract and with some compexity either deferred or excluded from the system it is possible to make smart artworks and art institutions in code online in the blockchain.

By moving the curatorial and developmental functions of the artworld into artworks and institutions themselves it is possible to remove the vagarities of human attention from the development of the art market while still representing human economic and aesthetic interests within it.

The Entropy Man


D16 Hex Dice by Saharasav licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart is a 1971 novel about the moral consequences of making life-altering decisions using the roll of a die. The use of chance operations in art was common in mid-20th-Century avant-gardes but, reacting against his background in psychiatry, Rhinehart applied them to more consequential decision making.

We can use cryptographic hashes rather than dice as the source of entropy for aleatory, chance operations in art and decision making. The last hexadecimal digit (or digits, for wider ranges of values) can be quantized to the range of values we need: e.g. for a coin flip 0-7 is tails and 8-F is heads.

Private hashes can be the sha256 of a question, statement, or range of options. Or of entropy pulled from /dev/random or a hardware source. Combine these two approaches or use a timestamp to make answers specific to the occasion or time at which they are asked.

Public hashes can be Bitcoin’s block hashes, or the hash of a Bitcoin transaction. The transaction can be time locked or contain the question (etc.) encoded as a has to delay and/or allow proof or disclosure of its content.

Or we can use any of these methods as the decision making basis for computer based or handmade generative art, replacing software pseudo-random number generators with entropy deterministically derived from the existing content of the work or from external sources of “inspiration”.

It’s much more contemporary than a dice, although dice do make good sources of artisanal entropy.

Entity Hash IDs

Some schemes for encoding non-monetary information using Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrency systems) require identifiers to be encoded as addresses.

By encoding ontologies and vocabularies en masse in this way and publishing the source for each stage of the encoding we can produce a public registry and dictionary to be used in encoding messages.

(This also works for OP_RETURN in Bitcoin and for contract data in Ethereum, but we start with the lowest common denominator that also entails the widest range of representations.)

First, create a source identifier. For example we can represent Andy Warhol by Getty ULAN number:


Or the act of painting using a WordNet synset:


Or the relationship of being the maker of something expressed as an RDF url:

Then we follow the standard scheme for creating a Bitcoin address, starting at step 2 here:

This is so we have both a sha256 and RIPEMD-160 representation of the identifier that we can publish along with a Bitcoin public address version, making the source identifier quicker and easier to locate.

Once we’ve published these representations, we can use them to refer to entities using cryptocurrency transactions (for example sending sequential transactions from a vanity address) and anyone can recover the subject. They become public, common identifiers that can be used on the blockchain.

If instead we wish the representations to be secret or we wish to establish a namespace, we can salt the encodings by prepending a Bitcoin address or public key (that can sign transactions), a cryptographically sound piece of entropy (that we need not disclose), or a . Hierarchical deterministic wallet key addresses can be used either for additional security or as a clock to establish message order.

As with Git hashes, we can use just the last few characters of the hash to refer to it. This allows a single hash worth of storage space to refer to (for example) four different other hashes, either by concatenating the hashes directly (with or without a checksum or the last few characters of a signature attached) or by hashing them to produce a value that is recoverable but secret to the extent that it is salted (with entropy or an HD wallet key as above).

Any of these representations can be used in Bitcoin addresses or as OP_RETURN values, as the equivalent in other cryptocurrencies, or in Ethereum storage cells. They provide a flexible means of naming and refering to entities in a variety of cryptographic systems.

Ethereum Standardized Art Contract API

(Sketch from September 2015, unpublished until now.)

The Ethereum project allows you to create arbitrary smart contracts to run on its blockchain). To ensure that those arbitrary contracts can communicate where they need to, they have published a list of standard contract interfaces:

These standards allow different coins, registries, data feeds and other common contracts to communicate with and use each other in a well understood way.

Let’s extend this to art contracts, starting with a smart artwork. Next we’ll cover exhibitions and reviews.

These interfaces are applicable to contracts other than for art. Feedback and suggestions on how to generalize them gratefully received.

Purchaseable Artwork

A smart contract artwork either embodies an artwork in itself, represents or controls some aspect of an artwork, or contains or is a proxy for it in some way.

The contract’s owner is expected to be the artist, and not to change. “Ownership” of the artwork is recorded within the contract.



offer(address _purchaser, uint _price, uint _until)

Only callable by the artwork owner. This is separate from the contract owner.

Offer the work for sale. The _purchaser address can be zero, in which case anyone can buy the artwork. The _price can be zero, in which case the _purchaser need not send any funds. And _until can be a UNIX timestamp in the past, in which case the artwork is not actually for sale. Zero works well for this.


purchase() returns (bool _success)

If the caller matches the _purchaser (or it is set to zero), sends enough ether to match _price (or price is zero), and the offer has not expired, the caller becomes the new owner of the artwork.


purchaseFee() return (uint8 _percentage)

The percentage of the purchase price that goes to the contract owner (the artist) rather than the purchaser. A functional equivalent to the ‘Artist Resale Right’.


setPurchaseFee(uint8 _percentage)

Callable only by the contract owner.

This sets the percentage of the purchase price that will go to the contract owner rather than to the purchaser. It can be set to zero.



Offered(address seller, address purchaser, uint price, uint duration)

The artwork was offered for sale by the current owner of the artwork, recorded as seller.


Sold(address seller, address buyer, uint price)

The artwork was sold by seller to buyer for the price given in Ethers.

Exhibitable Artwork

An exhibitable smart contract artwork separates out the capability to exhibit the artwork from simple ownership and places it under the contract’s control.



exhibit(address _at, uint _duration) returns (bool _success)

Mark the work as exhibited at (address) for _duration seconds from success of the transaction, if the caller sends sufficient Ether to cover the exhibition fee.

The address the work is exhibited _at can be privileged by the specific implementation of the contract (for example, a web server can allow access only from an address that can sign requests with the _at address key).


exhibitFee() returns (uint _fee)

The number of Ether per second payable as an exhibition fee. Zero means that exhibition is free.


setExhibitFee(uint _fee)

Callable only by the contract owner.

This sets the number of Ether per second payable as an exhibition fee. It can be set to zero.



Exhibited(address indexed at, uint duration)

The artwork was exhibited at the given address for duration seconds.