The presence of NFTs in the art world took a large uptick recently. While having existed since 2017, non-fungible tokens—unique digital files which are verified through a blockchain not dissimilar to cryptocurrencies—have been causing a buzz over the past month with high-profile artists such as Grimes making millions off of NFT sales. While there is much debate on whether this booming trend is a move of progress in the art world for cutting out the middleman, or just a new face on the same closed circle, there is at least one group that is using the avenue of NFTs to maximum notoriety: Burnt Banksy.
Self-proclaimed “art and NFT enthusiasts”, Burnt Banksy made headlines this past week for an act that isn’t hard to guess. As the group geared up for the auctioning of an NFT representing Banksy’s 2006 work I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit, they filmed one of their members setting flame to the original copy of the work and posted it to YouTube on March 3rd. The six-minute video features one of the group’s members, clad in a face mask and sweater featuring Banksy’s Girl With Balloon, taking a lighter to every side of the print to slowly burn it.
“We see this event encapsulating the first-ever major transition of a physical art piece into a digital one,” the group states on their video. “We view this burning event as an expression of art itself. We are generating a new form of artwork via the creation of this unique NFT that is a direct representation of the physical.”
But a large portion of the art world sees through the action as a stunt—a bombastic way to drive up the price of a hot-selling format with little-to-no artistic merit. Notoriety and money seem to be the primary aims of the event, and in that sense, Burnt Banksy succeeded, with the NFT of Morons going for $380,000 in auction and the action being talked about across arts publications.
Burnt Banksy, in partnership with SuperFarm (an NFT selling platform) and Injective Protocol (a medium for trading across blockchains), are apparently planning on similar stunts in collaboration with other artists.
Despite the clamour the event has caused, there is, in truth, little difference between the drives of Burnt Banksy and countless other collectors and sellers who are merely out for the money. In this way, it seems like the boom of NFT has simply transferred the norms of the industry to a digital forum. While some may speculate a meaning derived from the original intent of Morons and the context of the burning with the NFT auction, it is hard to see this as much more than a means to make a hot commodity that much hotter.