What a difference a year makes. Last year, when Bitcoin was over $40,000, a giant metal bull greeted visitors to the annual Bitcoin conference in Miami, proclaiming that the “future of finance” had arrived. A year later, and well into a fresh crypto winter, Pepe seems to have taken over.
In the first day of the three-day event, the mood was somewhat subdued as crowds trickled in to hear panel discussions such as “The Fed vs. The Financial System,” “Fighting the Anti-Crypto Army” and “Bitcoin & The Banking Crisis.” The mood was serious, yet hopeful. But the real star of the show was Pepe, whose omnipresence coincides with the memecoin that caused a frenzy when it hit the market in mid-April.
Off to the side of the large expo hall at the conference, an art gallery featured both physical and digital art, some of which could be purchased in an ongoing auction using bitcoin.
The show stopper is a massive, 21-panel mural that pays meme homage to Picasso’s Guernica, the famed 1937 oil painting that became a symbol of the Spanish Civil War. Dubbed Pepernica, the painting by artist Luis Simo is over 11 feet tall and 25 feet long. The current bid is 5.5 millions sats, or nearly $1,500.
Simo, a 27-year-old visual artist based in Valencia, Spain, said the mural took him about a month and a half to paint. He said he first had the idea after attending the Bitcoin conference last year and had been inspired by the subsequent crypto market crash and the war in Ukraine.
"Memes are a reoccurring part of the art world," he said in an interview. "If you go to museums and galleries in the U.S. and Europe, you'll easily see memes. But to introduce memes from Crypto Twitter into physical art and installations, that's just getting started."
"It would be great if it goes to someone with the space to exhibit it," Simo continued, adding that he thought a hotel would be the perfect place for the work. He plans to keep the bitcoin he receives from the sale.
Another work by Simo called “Las Pepinas” is an original oil painting that memes Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-Waiting). Winners of the works will also receive NFTs minted on Counterparty.
Other Pepe-themed works at the show included Pepe-ized pop art “Plans for the Dollar” and "Oswald’s Diary." The Indipepe series by artist JB is a memed derivative of Robert Indiana's famous "LOVE" work that “seamlessly integrates the iconic Pepe the Frog into the annals of art history.”
To bid on the art, you have to deposit 1% of your bid as collateral, or 0.02 BTC for unlimited bids.
Pepe as Love
Art wasn’t the only thing for sale, with the event also featuring a peer-to-peer Bitcoin Bazaar where you could buy Bitcoin related items.
(Updates with comment from artist in fifth paragraph.)
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