Sotheby’s Closes $12.9M Banksy Auction, First Paid in Crypto

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In Brief
  • Sotheby’s sold its first piece of art accepting cryptocurrency as payment.

  • Banksy’s “Love is in the Air” sold for $12.9 million in an undisclosed crypto.

  • This marks another step in crypto adoption, after high profile auctions of NFTs earlier this year.

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Celebrated auction house Sotheby’s has accepted payment in cryptocurrency for the first time.

According to a recent tweet, Sotheby’s sold Banksy’s “Love is in the Air” for $12.9 million. The auction took place over 14 minutes between four different prospective buyers. This is the first artwork purchased with crypto since Sotheby’s announced it would be accepting bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) as payment.

However, it was not revealed which cryptocurrency was used as payment in the auction. In a poll on Twitter, 35% believed the winners used ethereum to buy the Banksy piece, followed closely by bitcoin.

The art world accepting crypto

This event marks another milestone in the increasing integration of cryptocurrencies into the art world. Although this auction was for a physical piece of art, auction houses have been increasingly taken with non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Last month, Sotheby’s hosted its first NFT auction. Over the course of three days, it sold the work of digital artist Pak for $16.8 million. The collection, known as “The Fungible,” was sold through NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway. The sale achieved at least two records, including the most number of bids for an auction item on Nifty Gateway.

Meanwhile, rival auction house Christie’s sold its first NFT artwork in March. The auction house sold digital artist Beeple’s NFT collection for a substantial $69 million. This sale made it the first auction house to close on an NFT. More recently, Christie’s sold nine NFTs from the CryptoPunks series for a total of nearly $17 million.

eBay also recently announced that the online retailer would allow the sales of NFTs on its platform. This would include trading cards, images, or video clips. Although not technically an auction house, eBay pioneered the online auction platform. This came days after eBay CEO Jamie Iannone included cryptocurrencies among the new payments platforms the company is exploring.  

Despite rising stratospherically in the first quarter of this year, recent data suggest that NFT mania is leveling off. This clearly hasn’t stopped continued interest from auction and retailer platforms. 


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Nick is a data scientist who teaches economics and communication in Budapest, Hungary, where he received a BA in Political Science and Economics and an MSc in Business Analytics from CEU. He has been writing about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology since 2018, and is intrigued by its potential economic and political usage.

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