A global first: Sotheby’s to accept bitcoin, ether as payment for physical art auction

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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US-based auction house Sotheby’s has become the first major broker to introduce cryptocurrencies as a payment method for physical artworks, following its prior sales with digital NFT art last month.

Sotheby’s is collaborating with Coinbase to accept cryptocurrencies as a payment method for a physical work of art. The first piece the auction house will make eligible to purchase through either Bitcoin or Ether as payment is “Love is in the Air” (2003) which is one of street artist Banksy’s most recognizable works.

Charles Stewart
Charles Stewart
CEO – Sotheby’s

“This is the first time that cryptocurrency will be accepted as payment for the physical artwork and we are really excited to make this happen. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for quite some time. Banksy has been, as you might be well aware, a very popular artist at auction and there is a lot of interest in his work paying with physical money as well.”

Though Sotheby’s will stick to conventional bids in US dollars, the winning buyer will have the option to pay the hammer price using cryptocurrency. The auction house said the decision to accept cryptocurrency for physical payment followed on from the recent success of the sale of non-fungible tokens (NFT), which saw bids from more than 3,000 collectors, most of whom were first-time buyers with the auction house.

The Banksy painting has an estimate of $3 million to $5 million for the auction, which is due to take place on May 12. It will be up to the owner of the painting whether or not to keep the cryptocurrency or immediately convert it to US dollars, Mr. Stewart added.

“I definitely think we will expand the audience by doing this and it’s something that we’ll explore going forward, although of course, we’re very curious to see how this first step in that direction goes,” Mr. Stewart said.

“Coinbase is proud to provide Sotheby’s with a sophisticated payment solution, backed by our deep liquidity, and expertise with trading and hedging cryptocurrencies. This is an example of an enterprise that is evolving with their client base to cater to crypto-forward consumers,” Sanchan Saxena, Coinbase’s vice president of product and ecosystem, said.

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