It has been made abundantly clear that the digital realm is now intrinsically tied to the economies of the world. With the ever-valuable status of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies still aloft and the vastly growing interest in NFTs, the digital economy is also making firm ties to the world of art. So it comes as no surprise that major art brokers and institutions would want to open their doors to these ever-growing avenues of finance, and Sotheby’s accepting cryptocurrency for an upcoming auction of a Banksy is a clear sign of these changing times.
The piece up for auction is Banksy’s Love is in the Air (2005), an iconic work by the anonymous artist, depicting a masked rioter standing poised to lob a bouquet of flowers. This particular iteration is oil and spray paint on canvas, the colourful hand-painted bouquet unique to it. It’s perhaps the image most synonymous with Banksy, even being used as the cover for his book Wall and Piece and reproduced constantly worldwide. Not only does it capture the artist’s signature skewing of contextual presumptions and wit, but it also brims with the hopeful and active energy for positive change that seems to drive so much of Banksy’s career.
Sotheby’s announced that through a partnership with Coinbase Commerce, a cryptocurrency transaction facilitator, they would be accepting bitcoin or ether for the hammer price on this piece. It is the first time that, not only Sotheby’s, but any major auction house, has accepted cryptocurrencies for an auction. Although they have only stated this allowance for this particular auction, with trends as they are, there is a good chance cryptocurrency will find a regular place within Sotheby’s. And as NFTs are still just beginning their rise it likely won’t be long before other major institutions follow suit.
The auctioning of Love is in the Air as well as Sotheby’s accepting cryptocurrency for it comes on the heels of the recent Burnt Banksy incident, in which the titular group destroyed the physical copy of I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit in order to increase the value of the piece’s NFT. There certainly seems to be an air of awareness to Sotheby’s choosing this piece as its first auction with cryptocurrencies, and without a doubt, there will be an appeal for this auction to such NFT enthusiasts.
Sotheby’s accepting cryptocurrency in a lot of ways feels like an inevitability. Bitcoin has held steady over the past decade and is likely in the digital pockets of many who can afford to hang a Banksy in their home. NFTs have had a much more streamlined path with the vast success cryptocurrency has had, and the two seem poised to take a long seat at the upper echelon of art trading. But for now, at least, there is still some desire for buyers to walk away with a physical work of art.