Marcel Duchamp shocked the art world in 1917 by presenting a urinal as an entry to a prestigious competition. A century later, an American artist known as Robness sparked his own controversy by selling a non-fungible token (NFT) from a garbage can for $ 252.000.
“I can't even remember where I got the image from, I think it was a Google image search,” the 38-year-old from Los Angeles told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
First removed and then put up for auction again
NFTs are unique pieces of computer code stored on a longer chain of code known as a blockchain, with a link to a work of art or other object.
The image, called "64 gallon toter", depicts a large plastic bin with glitch effects, giving it a psychedelic look.
There is a lot of money to be made in the NFT art world - auctions and celebrity purchases contributed more than $ 40 billion in sales last year, according to analysis firm Chainalysis.
Like Duchamp's urinal, Robness's piece gained value as it gained notoriety - the NFT SuperRare market removed the image shortly after creating it.
“It was kind of an art of anger, I was angry about some things,” he said. “So I put it on, and it was removed. They thought I was taking the Home Depot image and infringing on copyright.
“They legally threatened me,” he said with a laugh. But then, out of the blue, the platform restored her work.
SuperRare told AFP in an email that "the community did not consider it art" but reinstated it after two years because "so much has evolved" in discussions of what can legitimately be called art.
A disruptive element
The bin had become a meme and inspired thousands of giveaways and knockoffs, and collectors were showing interest.
“It was one of three garbage cans that were in SuperRare, and I sold it to a collector,” said Robness.
“He called me because he wanted to know more about the story, and we talked for about 30-45 minutes, and the whole story is hilarious and he was laughing most of the time. So she wanted to withdraw it, I gave it a price and that was it ”.
Robness - who is only known by that name - said he was doing odd jobs and sleeping in his car on the beach when he started exploring the world of cryptocurrencies in 2014.
He gradually got hooked on technology - “just the disruptive element of it to be honest” - and started doing NFT.
The controversy over the bins and its prolific production - NFT recently posted about a job application she made at McDonald's - has gained a lot of fans, her Twitter following has crossed the 30.000 barrier.
And it sells enough to make a living. “A month, it's so much better than my job as a bartender,” she joked. Now he is a champion of "open-source art", where he says that anyone should be able to take any image and do what he wants with it.
“You can literally steal anything I've done, copy and paste it, I don't care,” he said.