Women in crypto: Sarah Meyohas

Sarah Meyohas on the digitalisation of art, NFTs and next-generation technologies

                                
Sarah Meyohas on the digitalisation of art, NFTs and next-generation technologies – Photo: Galerie Magazine
                                

Sarah Meyohas’ profile

Date of birth: 1991

Hometown: New York City

Residence: New York City

Current role: Artist and Investor

Previous roles: not applicable

Social media handles: @sarahmeyohas (both Twitter and Instagram)

Sarah Meyohas’ biography

Sarah Meyohas is a conceptual artist whose practice considers the nature and capabilities of emerging technologies in contemporary society. 

Using the familiar emblems of biological life, Meyohas investigates the complex operations that increasingly govern our world: soaring birds, created using augmented-reality software, flock in unison with the frenetic variations of the stock market; rose petals, aggregately identical but individually unique, comprise the dataset for their artificial intelligence (AI)-created equivalents; Bitchcoin, a cryptocurrency backed by physical artworks, questions the speculative value of cryptocurrency and the ineffable value of art. 

Her work has been exhibited in New York City at Red Bull Arts, 303 Gallery and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and internationally at institutions including the Barbican Centre in London, the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai and the Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vice and Artforum, and has appeared on CNBC, PBS, and CBC. In 2017, she was included in the ’Forbes 30 under 30’ list. 

Meyohas holds dual degrees in finance and international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and in 2015 received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Yale University.

Panoramic shot of New York City skyline
Artist Sarah Meyohas’s work has been exhibited at several locations in New York City, as well as internationally – Photo: Shutterstock

Sarah Meyohas is one of the first conceptual artists to step into the matrix of art and cryptocurrencies. In 2015, Meyohas created her own cryptocurrency called Bitchcoin – a digital currency backed by her physical art, which predated Ethereum by five months. 

Her work, which focuses on capturing the similarities between nature and emerging technologies that influence our world, has been exhibited in New York, London, Dubai and Shanghai. 

Meyohas has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and also appeared live on TV networks CNBC and CBC talking about her ability to turn complex operations into digital art. And she’s only just getting started.

The early days

Meyohas grew up in New York City with her mother and grandmother. She studied finance and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania before getting her MFA in photography at Yale.

“We spent every weekend in New York in museums. This was the foundation of my artistic education,” she says.

Her first initial breakthrough into the world of crypto when she was a student at Yale. She says: “I was thinking about the nature and construction of value, very conceptually. Images circulate, and they have ‘currency’ in many ways. 

“When I heard about bitcoin from a friend, I went down the rabbit hole. It seemed like the perfect medium to create an artwork in.”

The Cloud of Petals display at the Red Bull centre in New York City
The Cloud of Petals display at the Red Bull centre in New York City – Photo: Sarah Meyohas

The digitisation of art

In February 2015, Meyohas launched the very first tokenisation of art on the blockchain called Bitchcoin, which predated Ethereum by five months. 

It was the first piece she presented publicly, and was something she recalls as part of the DNA of her entire artistic practice, setting the stage for the rest of her work. Six years later, she migrated Bitchcoin to Ethereum. 

Her cryptocurrency, which allows art collectors to invest directly in Meyohas as a value-producer rather than investing in the artwork itself, is like any currency tradable on the open market – it has no expiration, so it works like a non-expiring bet on Sarah Meyohas.

As she explains: “I view my role as linking the traditional legacy art world and the digital world. Ultimately, the two will converge in many capacities."

In 2017, Meyohas debuted her first large exhibition, entitled Cloud of Petals, at the site of the former Bell Labs in New York. Meyohas gathered 16 workers to photograph 100,000 individual rose petals and compile a dataset. They then mapped out an AI algorithm that could learn to generate new unique petals forever.

Her use of rose petals is a metaphor for data and digital communication – they are intended to show the beauty and subjectivity within the systems of automation and artificial intelligence. Her aim was to showcase a juxtaposition of traditional mythologies mixed with contemporary technologies that influence our everyday lives. 

“The bloomlets of flowers – into nothing but data, ones and zeros. The cloud of petals sprawled in the building eventually becomes a cloud of pixels,” her website says about the exhibition.

Moving into the investor space

Another project, called Stock Performance, saw Meyohas portray the stock market’s rise and fall as a visual creation to show how life imitates art.

She also transformed the Where Gallery – a mobile shipping container in Brooklyn, New York – into a cryptocurrency mine. Users were able to view the space through a live-streamed webcam, according to her website. Bitchcoin buyers received a certificate with key number encryption allowing them access to the custom software program, through which currency can be sent and received.

“With Bitchcoin, I both proposed a model, and then implemented that model – which ended up being the proto-NFT [non-fungible token],” she says.

“So my role is both as a thinker, as an artist and, even later, as an investor in the space.”

On inclusion, diversity and gender bias

The culture of anonymity in the world of crypto is a breath of fresh air, according to Meyohas. “Your genetic make-up is not the primary marker of identity.”

She adds: “That said, gender goes beyond genetics. A lot of the work right now in the space is very masculine, regardless of the gender of the creator. Is it a problem? Not a dire one, but it just means the work is not as rich and complex as it could be. It also means I have to work 10 times harder.” 

Meyohas also believes a fundamental reason behind gender disparity in the world of art is due to the majority of the collectors being male. Art by female artists also sells at considerably lower values than that of male artists, which adds to the equation.

"It's difficult, because most of the collectors are men, so they are inherently drawn to masculine work. Opening your mind is a difficult operation.”

However, this inadvertently takes the pressure off females to succeed in the industry: “There is less pressure, because nobody expects you to succeed. Less expectation also means people take you less seriously. But only at the beginning.”

“Your genetic make-up is not the primary marker of identity” Sarah Meyohas

Looking ahead to next-gen technologies 

I don’t think any individual moment is career-defining,” says Meyohas. “Bitchcoin was a really big deal really early on and I’m happy it got the attention it did, but we’re just getting started... a lot of what is to come is beautiful, and conceptually and creatively rigorous. And Bitchcoin is the rails through which we can continue to provide value to those earliest supporters.”

When discussing what she’s most excited about, Meyohas says that the world of NFTs will have a big impact on our approach to art, and the sector will only get bigger in tandem with stablecoins. 

“There is going to be a convergence of legacy media on blockchain’s rails as they realise it’s a more effective means to sell to the next generations.

“DAOs [decentralised autonomous organisations] are exciting, but that’s all I can say for now.” 

Watch this space!

Further reading

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