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Sotheby’s to accept bitcoin, ether in Banksy auction

written by Bella Palmer

The luxury auction house said it partnered with crypto exchange Coinbase to facilitate bidding, which is estimated at $US3 million to $US5 million

Sotheby’s is joining in on the crypto craze. The 277-year-old luxury auction house said it will accept bitcoin and ether, the digital token of the ethereum blockchain, for payment in its auction next week of Banksy’s Love is in The Air masterpiece.

Sotheby’s said in a statement that it’s the first time a major auction house will accept cryptocurrency as payment for a physical piece of art.

Fittingly, the pairing brings together the biggest disruptor in finance with one of the most notable disruptors in the art world – Banksy, Sotheby’s wrote in a statement.

Sotheby’s said it partnered with crypto exchange Coinbase to facilitate bidding, which is estimated at $US3 million to $US5 million.

The auction house began to engage with the crypto world in March, when it announced that it would auction off a series of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which are digital assets that represent ownership of virtual items like art and sports memorabilia.

Ownership of NFTs are recorded on a blockchain network, which supports cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether.

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 told 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 high prices in recent months. The first NFT sold by Sotheby’s rival Christie’s was bought for more than $US69 million.

Bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency in the world, according to Coinbase, with a market capitalisation of nearly $US1 trillion. Ether is the second largest, with a market cap of about $US370 billion.

The adoption of the crypto world by institutions such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and other major US companies has also pushed the prices higher. The adoption by Sotheby’s is another indicator of growing adoption of digital tokens.


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