Fine art auction house Sotheby’s disclosed in a CNBC interview that it would be accepting cryptocurrency as a payment option, a move that’s set to begin for its upcoming auction for Banksy’s 'Love is in the Air'.
Asked whether the crypto poses a shift in audience perception of discipline in the traditional art market, Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart opined that “It’s just a reality. I think we are definitely seeing an interest on the part of cryptocurrency owners wanting to participate, them pushing into the physical world [...] This is the first time this has been done, we’ll see.”
“But I think that for us creating the possibility of this is interesting. As you’ve mentioned NFTs, there’s clearly a large audience interested in the NFT aesthetic and possibility there, why wouldn’t that extend to the physical art world as well?” Steward added.
The auction will be the first time that Sotheby’s would accept cryptocurrency as a payment method for physical art, and would serve as a precedent as the auction house plans to release other works in its collection with crypto payment opened as an option.
"With the growing adoption of digital art and NFTs, along with our increased focus on digital innovation, we've seen an increasing appetite among collectors for more seamless payment options when doing business with Sotheby's," shared Sotheby’s CTO Stefan Pepe.
The auction house disclosed that it will accept Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) through its institutional partnership with Coinbase to process crypto payments.
"Leveraging the trusted exchange Coinbase is a natural progression and is in line with our dedication to enhancing our client buying experience and developing new ways to expand our client base by meeting them where they are," Pepe added.
Sotheby’s noted, however, that the decision to either keep the payment in crypto or convert it to fiat, rests on the artwork’s consignor, and declined to comment whether it would keep any crypto earnings on its books.
The auction for Banksy’s 1974 piece is scheduled for May 12th and currently has an estimated worth of 3 to 5 million U.S. dollars. Pinned at Lot 104, the artwork was sourced by Sotheby’s from its Private North American Collection. It was acquired by the present owner in 2006 from Lazarides Gallery in London.
The work is famous for having been the cover illustration for Banksy’s 2005 monograph, Wall and Piece. Love is in the Air is one of Banksy’s more unique works, distinguished by its medium mixing the artist’s usual stenciled spray paint for murals with the more traditional oil on canvas, which the artist used to work on details for the flower.
On its sale page for the Banksy piece, the auction house says that it will “accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment for lots with this symbol, subject to the Additional Conditions of Sale for Payment by Cryptocurrency.” Sotheby’s recently closed an NFT sale for digital artist Pak’s The Fungible collection, which realized some $16.8 million in three days, across open editions and two auction pieces. It had a record number of over 3,000 bids, the largest of any on NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway.
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