Culture

Sotheby's offers to accept crypto in $12.9 million Banksy auction

The Banksy piece is physical.

Bonhams assistant Bernice Robaglia views Banksy's 'Love is in the Air' which is expected to fetch 100,000 at auction on the 27th of June at Bonhams in London.   (Photo by Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Anthony Devlin - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

After a fourteen-minute battle, a Banksy piece sold yesterday at auction for a cool $12.9 million — not unprecedented for the mysterious artist. But for the first time ever, Sotheby’s will allow the winning bidder to pay in cryptocurrency.

No dogecoin, though — Just one piece from the auction, “Love in the Air,” was auctioned with the option to pay in crypto. According to Sotheby’s, the buyer can “pay the hammer price in either bitcoin or ethereum should they choose.” If they do choose to pay with crypto, they’ll need to send funds from one of the following approved exchanges: Coinbase, Fidelity Digital Assets Services, Coinbase Custody Trust, Paxos, or Gemini.

Sotheby’s is partnering with Coinbase Commerce to manage the transaction. Coinbase Commerce is an enterprise method for accepting payment using cryptocurrencies.

Growing acceptance — The usefulness of accepting cryptocurrency is twofold. First, companies can accept money from buyers anywhere in the world without incurring high transaction fees. The price to process a bitcoin transaction currently stands at about $14, much less than you’d expect if you tried to process $12.9 million on a credit card. And because Coinbase Commerce submits transactions directly to a blockchain ledger, they’re not considered valid until a third party certifies the transaction as legitimate.

Just as Sotheby’s begins accepting crypto, Tesla is going the other direction: it will stop accepting bitcoin for purchases of its vehicles, less than two months after adding the option, over concerns that the company was being hypocritical. Running the bitcoin network requires a lot of energy — energy often derived from fossil fuels.

Musk hopes to resume accepting bitcoin once the process transitions to using sustainable energy sources like solar. His decision has angered many who saw their investment in bitcoin dip following the news.

The Banksy piece titled “Love is in the Air.”SlashGear

Not an NFT — Unlike recent sales of artworks that have taken the digital form, the Banksy piece is an old school, physical canvas signed by Banksy himself (or herself, or themself?) and dated June 5, 2005. It was created using oil and spray paint and is one of Banksy’s most iconic stencils. It shows a masked Palestinian throwing a bouquet of flowers, which is believed to signify hope for peaceful resolution of conflict in Jerusalem.

When the painting is delivered to its new owner, Sotheby’s says it will be delivered in a white frame with a glass cover surrounding the canvas. Which, frankly, is also pretty traditional. The more some things change, the more others stay the same.