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Burnt Banksy: All You Need to Know About NFTs and Why Some 'Morons' Torched an Artwork

Burnt Banksy | Image credit: YouTube

Burnt Banksy | Image credit: YouTube

Would the future of the art world include museums replacing framed artworks with screens displaying digital artworks or NFTs instead? We might not have to wait very long to find out.

Ever heard of an artwork whose value increased after it complete destruction? Well, in the world of crypto, it seems anything is possible after a bunch of crypto enthusiasts and companies got together and burnt an artwork by Banksy, only to sell it off as a digital token for a much higher price. The artwork was transformed into an NFT which was auctioned off for $394,000. Proceeds from the auction are going to be donated to the NHS for working tirelessly through the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.

What is an NFT?

The digitized artwork, created from the original 2006 Banksy artwork ‘Morons’, is an NFT – a Non-fungible token. NFTs are not physical assets but digital properties that exist in the blockchain. An NFT essentially symbolises ownership of a certain physical item. Since it’s stored in blockchain, it is transparent and thus cannot be copied or stolen. James Murphy, CEO of Future Fallout, writes that that just like a concert ticket symbolises the ownership of the space of a seat in the concert arena, and a Bitcoin represents the underlying value of the digital currency in physical currency, an NFT symbolises the ownership of an item that has been digitised.

Why are NFTs in news?

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NFTs have been making waves in the crypto as well as art world for quite some time. The phenomenon recently became a rage after an anonymous group of crypto enthusiasts burnt down an original Banksy, valued at $95,000 when purchased, and instead of creating an NFT to represent the artwork. The NFT was later auctioned off on the Open Sea NFT marketplace for a whopping $394,000 (Rs 2,87,44,861 approx.)

What is ‘Morons’?

The artwork ‘Morons’ was created by Banksy in 2006 in response to the exorbitantly high price a painting titled ‘Sunflowers’ by Vincent Van Gogh fetched in 1987. A Japanese magnate paid $39,921,750 for the iconic painting. Banksy’s artwork contained the words “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t”. It was bought from New York’s Taglialatella Gallery for $95,000.

Why did they burn the Banksy?

The burning of the Banksy took place in a ceremonial incident by the anonymous group, now calling itself ‘Burnt Bansky’. A video of the burning was shared on YouTube on March 4. According to the group, “as long as the physical piece exists, the value of that piece will remain with the physical”. The group also added that “by removing the physical piece from existence and only having the NFT, we can ensure that the NFT, due to the smart contract ability of the blockchain, will ensure that no one can alter the piece and it is the true piece that exists in the world. By doing this, the value of the physical piece will then be moved onto the NFT”.

Incidentally, the group that burnt the Banksy was inspired by the artist himself. In 2020, the rebel street artist shredded his iconic artwork ‘Girl With Balloon’ moments after it was auctioned at London’s Sotheby’s for $1.4 million. The ‘transformed’ artwork was dubbed ‘Love is in the Bin’ and was retained by the woman who purchased it at the auction. The shredded piece was seen by many as an abstract critique of the materialistic art world.

Are NFTs a threat to the art world?

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet was turned into an NFT and auctioned at the current highest bid of $2.5 million. Musician and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s girlfriend Grimes’ art collection titled ‘WarNymph’ was released on February 28, and sold for $5.8 million (Rs 424,891,760) as NFT. Injective Protocol, the firm behind the auction, told the media that it is currently in talks with another popular artist who has signed on to convert his artwork into a digitised token. NFT represents an interesting intersection between art and technology. According to artist Trevor Jones, the digital art market is poised to grow and might easily reach US$67 billion in size in the near future.

So would the future of the art world include museums replacing framed artworks with screens displaying digital artworks or NFTs instead? We might not have to wait very long to find out.

first published:March 11, 2021, 19:38 IST