An original artwork by anonymous British street artist Banksy has been burned and turned into a nonfungible token. The NFT will be auctioned next week on the blockchain-based Rarible platform, where users can create and purchase rare tokenized artworks.
The original Banksy in question is a satirical piece entitled “Morons,” which depicts buyers at an art auction bidding on a piece emblazoned with the words “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” The piece received certification from Pest Control — the only body authorized to authenticate original Banksy artworks.
“Morons” was sold at Christie's auction house in London in late 2019, where it fetched $32,500 from an anonymous, independent buyer.
The burning of the piece took place at an unknown location in Brooklyn, New York, and was livestreamed via the recently created Twitter account BurntBanksy. The burning was reportedly carried out by a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts in association with executives from the blockchain project Injective Protocol.
The tokenization of the authenticated piece took place without input from the pseudonymous Banksy. However, other prominent artists have seen fit to dip their toes into the crypto world of late, as witnessed recently when famed British artist Damien Hirst announced he would accept bids for his work in Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH).
The NFT market became an industry unto itself toward the end of 2020, as almost $9 million in token sales was recorded in December 2020 alone. But that was just a sign of things to come, as NFT sales exploded moving into 2021, helped by the validation of several high-profile celebrities such as YouTuber Logan Paul and entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
On Sunday, acclaimed Canadian musician and artist Grimes launched an NFT collection titled “WarNymph”, which went on to sell for a collective $5.8 million. The NBA recently embarked on a joint venture with CryptoKitties creator Dapper Labs to launch NBA Top Shot — an NBA-themed digital token marketplace that has reportedly generated $230 million in sales since launch.
The “Morons” piece is not the first Banksy to be destroyed on purpose. In 2018, Banksy’s “Girl With Balloon” automatically self-destructed shortly after selling for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s. The artist later revealed that he had installed an automatic shredder in the painting’s frame in case it ever went to auction. In an ironic twist of fate, the destroyed Banksy is now thought to be more valuable than the original piece ever was.
The “Morons” NFT will be auctioned on Rarible on Tuesday next week. All proceeds from the auction will be donated to charity. The successful bidder will be entitled to receive the certificate of authentication from Pest Control; however, this too will be burned if it is not claimed within two weeks of the sale.
In an art industry fraught with fakes and forgeries, “Morons” may now be the most authentic, most secure Banksy piece in the world. Once logged on the blockchain, the possibility of it being forged, altered or manipulated in any way is close to zero.
Given Banksy’s rejection of the bloated, materialistic art world, what would he think of the current mania surrounding NFTs? Keep an eye on your local graffiti spots. The answer may be forthcoming.