Fine art auction house Sotheby’s to accept cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum as payment for its upcoming sale of Banksy’s painting “Love is in the Air.”
It represents that a first-time major auction house will accept two cryptocurrencies as payment for a physical piece of art. The winning bidder can also pay in U.S. dollars.
“What better combination introduces crypto than an iconic Banksy painting,” Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Banksy’s “Love is in The Air” is one of the best-known works from British street artists whose real name is unknown. Sotheby’s estimates the biding in the range of $3 million to $5 million. Buyers can use cryptocurrency as payment. The auction is set for May 12.
The auction house has tied up with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc for sale, which went public in April. Coinbase also says it will “Manage price fluctuations” if the auction’s winner wants to use crypto.
“It may well be that the winner of this painting pays in dollars and not crypto, but I think for us, creating the possibility for this is interesting,” Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart said to CNBC. “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? It will be very interesting to see.”
Some NFTs have fetched jaw-dropping prices in recent months. Sotheby’s rival Christie’s sold its first NFT for $69.3 million. In March, Christie’s become the first major auction house to sell an NFT where blockchain-based assets unique by design.
“We are definitely seeing a large – and largely new – audience from Sotheby’s perspective,” Stewart said.
“We have an agreement with the owner of the painting, the consigner of the painting, so that will ultimately be up to them,” Stewart responded. “Part of the partnership with Coinbase gives us not only the ability to process but that possibility as well.”
The announcement from Sotheby’s, founded in 1744, represents the artist’s further institutional adoption of cryptocurrencies.