How blockchain connects artists to buyers: artist interview with Hash Halper

We interviewed street artist Hash Halper to learn how he uses blockchain to accrue a wider audience and sell more of his art

You don’t have to to be an expert on blockchain to recognize the growing relevance the technology has in society and art. Hash Halper, Also known at New York Romantic, did just that. Now, he leverages Bitcoin and its iconic symbol to connect to a new audience and a new set of buyers. In this Codex exclusive interview, we learn more about the artist behind the chalk, his foray into blockchain and how he’s integrating it into his NYC art practice. 


Hash Halper “New York Romatic”
Artist background

Street artist Hash Halper’s days in art began at a young age. Growing up with a Grandmother who was a ceramicist, Halper began producing his own work as a child. Later in life, as a young professional artist, he sold one of the ceramic works he made when he was 12 years old to an art gallery in New York City.

But the medium of art that has had the most lasting impact on Halper is chalk, saying “I’ve been chalking since I was born and I never stopped, I never lost my affinity for chalk. In school, even in college, I would raise my hand to go up the board to write in chalk.” As a street artist, it’s the mode Halper uses to communicate to society, enjoying the connection it has to education. “I like the idea of chalk being used in learning and in art” he describes.

 

Halper in Little Italy, NYC (2019) 

Known for his chalk hearts on the streets of New York City, Halper says his first major blast to notoriety was when Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton posted one of his NYC street works “Uber me Chipotle” on his Instagram before UberEats was ever around.

Start with crypto-currency

So what prompted a ceramicist turned street artist to turn to blockchain? Halper describes the introduction to crypto as a kind of happy accident. While curating art shows in NYC, he got a job at a juicery in Soho where he met the owner of Bitcoin Center, Nick Spanos. Spanos was a customer at the juice shop and Hash had read about Bitcoin hitting 300 dollars in the pink papers. As Halper notes, like any artist that wants to continue to keep people’s attention, “you have to stay up on what’s new, you have to stay relevant. If you’re not with it, you’re out of it.” 

Blockchain now represents a single, powerful idea in Halper’s practice: connection.

Connection through buying

Firstly, Halper explained to us that accepting payments in Bitcoin could connect him to an entirely new set of buyers. “Why wouldn’t I want people to collect my work? Artists accept Apple Pay, it’s the same concept. All you need is a phone. It’s just another medium to connect to my buyers” he says. Selling art is almost always an obstacle that artists face, and often have to become increasingly creative to stay on top of. For Halper, accepting payment in Bitcoin was a means of “more personal freedom” he said.

 

 NYC (2019)

In 2018 Halper curated a show at the Bushwick Generator that allowed “a bunch of artists around New York to come together and create a space where they could accept Bitcoin for art”. With the continued mission to empower artists by connecting them to a new form of purchasing, Halper expanded his presence in the blockchain world by introducing his peers to the new world he had discovered.

Connection through a new language

Not only does Halper recognize blockchain’s power as a new mechanism for people to buy his art, but it’s a new language for him to communicate in. Feeling a separation from artist to audience is not a new concept for street artists. Halper described that when creating art on the street you often feel like a fish in a fishbowl, or an “animal in a cage” as people walk by, stare, take pictures but don’t interact.

 

Soho, NYC (2019)

Now, blockchain offers a way for the artist to connect to the corporate and tech worlds through a shared interest. Halper leverages his “animal in a cage” position by wearing a Bitcoin shirt when creating his art; if eyes are going to be on him regardless, why not use it as an opportunity to connect? Halper describes his use of creating blockchain art as a way to bridge the gap in communication. “When you enter new mediums [Bitcoin] and enter new worlds, you talk a language other people talk. Bitcoin is the language of tech people. You can get together to join creative people and tech people through Bitcoin. Creative people then can see the use of the technology and they start to ‘get’ Bitcoin”.

When engaging with someone from the tech space, an offer to purchase his art in Bitcoin is an act of connection and respect in itself. He explains how there is an understated importance on how someone engages with the artist and purchases the work. He goes on to say “I would actually prefer to get 1 bitcoin* than 15 grand — when someone’s willing to give a Bitcoin they are valuing my art in the same currency as their currency, giving me respect.”

*At the time of the interview, the price of Bitcoin was $10,195

Looking forward

There are other areas that Halper is interested in exploring in crypto, like fractional ownership; finding the idea of someone being able to purchase just 1/10th of one of his works to be an enticing one. Street artists like cryptograffiti, who embeds QR codes into his art for donations, are getting more and more creative with how they utilize crypto in their practice.

So what’s the bottom line? You don’t need to be tech savvy to leverage benefits of the blockchain. Artists like Halper see the growing presence of the technology around them and use their strengths in creativity to make the most of the movement toward blockchain.

Follow Hash on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/newyorkromantic/?hl=en

Visit his gallery on Codex: https://codex-viewer.com/featured-collections/new-york-romantic

Written by Corinne Moshy