New York-based auction house Sotheby’s is set to start accepting digital currencies as payment for physical pieces of art. Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO, unveiled this news during an interview on May 5, noting that the auction house would accept Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) for Love is in the Air, the most famous piece of art by British street artist by the name Banksy. Reportedly, Sotheby’s partnered with Coinbase exchange to achieve this feat.
In the interview, Stewart said this would be the first time that both BTC and ETH are accepted as payment for physical art and that Sotheby’s was excited to facilitate the auction. He added that the auction house has been mulling to organise an auction settled in crypto for quite a while. Explaining the shift in sentiment, he cited the success in Sotheby’s first NFT sale a few weeks ago.
According to him, the auction went well, seeing as it attracted more than 3,000 bidders. Against the backdrop of the successful NFT sale, the auction house decided to cement its entry into the nascent space by accepting crypto for physical art as well.
Tapping into a new, larger audience
Responding to whether Sotheby’s will keep the ETH or BTC it receives from the sale of the Love is in the Air painting, Stewart said that the auction house has an agreement with the artwork’s consigner and the decision to either keep the crypto or convert it into fiat currencies is ultimately up to Banksy. However, the partnership with Coinbase not only gives the auction house the ability to process the payment but also the possibility to hold crypto.
From Sotheby’s point of view, a large, new audience is getting interested in the art industry after the introduction of NFTs. As such, the auction house is trying to see if selling physical artwork for crypto will get the same reception. Sotheby’s intends to continue supporting crypto payments. However, the auction house’s final decision will be based on how the upcoming sale of Love is in the Air will unfold.
Although the partnership with Coinbase seeks to expose more crypto adopters to the art industry, Stewart noted that crypto is not the only payment method. He said that buyers can also pay for the painting in cash, adding that it is worth approximately £2.17 to £3.61 million.