Blockchain art: Rare Pepes’ meteoric rise challenges long-established notions

New York City artist Louis Parker is one of the leading forces behind The Rare Pepe Blockchain Project, the first decentralized manifestation of blockchain-secured art by harnessing both the visual power of memes and of Bitcoin.

Parker held the first Rare Pepe auction in Manhattan in January 2018, where the little green frogs that characterize Rare Pepes were eagerly scooped up by art and blockchain enthusiasts. He held another at New York University in November.

Pepe the Frog was created by American artist and cartoonist Matt Furie in 2005, and since 2014, Rare Pepes have been sold as art works. In essence, they are digital trading cards that are traded as counterparty (XCP) assets on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Koji Higashi, the Japanese Bitcoiner and writer, said that “Rare Pepe is quietly one of the most weirdly exciting projects, exhibiting new possibilities for digital asset collection on the blockchain and open permissionless token economies.”

V Startup spoke briefly to Parker and asked to further explain why Rare Pepe’s are so popular.

“Prices of Rare Pepe Blockchain artworks can vary from fractions of a penny, to tens of thousands of dollars,” said Parker. “It all depends on how RARE and DANK any given artwork is. Rarity is encoded; Dankness is perceived. Qualities and Qualia determine the price of any artwork, and on the blockchain this is no different, though perhaps it moves and evolves at a faster pace.”

Parker added that Rare Pepes pose a major challenge to the art market, and force us to ponder the question: “What makes value?” The most expensive Rare Pepe to date sold for the equivalent of $40,000 in PepeCash for the single issue of an artwork titled, “HOMERPEPE”. (Rare Pepes are purchased with a cryptocurrency that’s not surprisingly called Pepe Cash).

Primary and secondary markets for Rare Pepes runs on the decentralized exchange protocol of CounterParty, which is a smart contract layer existing on top of Bitcoin.

“Blockchain is the tool for creating the ultimate market: one that is predicated on individuals choosing the rules of engagement,” said Parker. “Blockchain makes all the rules of the game apparent; equality of access encoded at the protocol level.”

By John Varoli, co-founder, V Startup Agency