There’s been recent proof of concept for street artists soliciting crypto donations through QR codes. Pascal Boyart, a French graffiti artist known for murals that contain hidden crypto prizes for those savvy enough to find them, posted on Reddit that he earned one full bitcoin two days ago (currently worth close to $4,000) for his piece titled “Liberté Guidant le Peuple,” painted this year in Paris.
The bitcoin adds to the total 0.14 bitcoin, five Bitcoin Cash, and 1.25 Litecoin (together worth roughly $1,400, at time of publication) that the artist says he’s received since posting three murals with QR donation codes around Paris in the past year.
“I couldn’t imagine receiving so much,” Boyart told us via Telegram of the bitcoin he was given two days ago. Boyart doesn’t know the identity of his benefactor, and this is the first time he’s gotten such a hefty chunk of coin from a single anonymous tipper. The bitcoin tips Boyart usually receives for his public art have hovered between a few cents and several dollars. On his website, Boyart counts influences like Pieter Bruegel, Jackson Pollack, and Georges Seurat, none of whom were ever paid for their art with bitcoin.
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Boyart’s pieces incorporate bitcoin through more than just a QR code. His work is part of a new trend of artists offering bitcoin prizes through their paintings. Beginning with Marguerite deCourcelle in 2014, crypto-inclined painters have snuck puzzles into their works that, when solved, unlock a certain amount of bitcoin for the decoder. “Liberté Guidant le Peuple” contained 0.26 hidden bitcoin, which Boyart placed there in honor of the tenth anniversary of bitcoin’s genesis block. He provided the public key and invited viewers to discover the private one to receive what is now worth about $1,044.
It appears that somebody solved the puzzle about a week after the challenge was posted. Cracking the code meant finding 12 recovery words for the keys to the wallet containing the promised bitcoin. The process did not look easy and revealed a message related to France’s populist Yellow Vests movement, containing the words: “banker usury lie people fight hope union citizen lead triumph yellow horizon.” The bitcoin prize was provided by sponsor Alistair Milne, who once described himself as a “certified bitcoin professional” on his personal blog.
Though Boyart’s website notes that he is the “first mural painter to affix a Bitcoin QR code to his paintings for donations,” at least one other street artist interested in cryptocurrency has been soliciting donations through QR codes for some time (though, to be fair, he’s not a mural painter). He goes by the name Cryptograffiti and has been getting micropayments this way for his crypto-related public art since 2011. His street art largely consists of corporate-looking images that subtly include the bitcoin symbol, often placed on or near ATMs belonging to banks like Chase and HSBC.
Publicly posting a QR code doesn’t come without hazards. There’s always the concern that someone could “hijack” your code, as one Redditor puts it, by painting over it with a QR code that leads to their personal wallet address. Boyart attempts to get around this by painting his website URL under the QR code, so people wishing to donate money can verify his address on the site. It’s not a perfect solution, but if someone is going to take the time to donate a significant amount of cryptocurrency, you’d think they’d check to make sure it’s going to the desired recipient.
“It makes me happy to see the support from the community,” wrote Boyart. He who appears to have immediately withdrawn the one BTC from his wallet.
This post has been updated to include the sponsor of the hidden bitcoin on Boyart’s mural.