NFTs storming the Art Market | Burnt Banksy: Authorship, Ownership and Ethics

NFTs continue storming the art market, and we are as curious as you are to see where this is all going.

Is it here to stay? Is this just temporary?

Last week, the art world woke up in shock after reading about this Banksy original that was burnt to become an NFT, as a way to "inspire technology enthusiasts and [...] artists." Today, we want to propose some questions and thought around the authorship, ownership and ethics of this particular event.

First, let's think about why most people felt in shock.

Art collecting is seen as a commendable action because the collector assumes to safeguard and preserve the state and conditions of a particular artwork for future generations. Buying an artwork, traditionally speaking at least, is about taking responsibility for art history. By preserving an artwork (which is something unique), we ensure that this uniqueness is kept intact for as long as possible and possibly for future generations to enjoy. Think about Da Vinci's drawings and how much information we would probably be missing nowadays if his studies were destroyed early on. It may seem insignificant, but all the art produced throughout history is crucial for society's development, as art is informed by artists' personal experiences and time-context.


So, why would you burn an original (limited edition) print of Banksy?

Although it may sound mad and truly disrespectful, this group of crypto-savvy artists went far and beyond the expected to spread the hype of NFTs. The truth is that if you bought artwork and if you are the only owner, legally, you can do anything you want with it. So, in practice, this group of artists did nothing wrong. But what was the whole point of it?

As discussed in our previous article, NFTs are a type of cryptoasset whose trading cannot be matched. An NFT is a unique token, like an artwork itself, but it only exists in the digital form. So, an NFT cannot be associated with a physical artwork, which explains why this group of artists burnt a Banksy. By burning an original Banksy and making it a digital piece, these artists associated it with an NFT that was then sold by 228.69 ETH, or roughly $380,000.


There are tons of questions that arise from this action. Historically speaking, artists who assumed destructive actions as part of their practice shaped most contemporary art. Destruction is art, and this reactionary action is no different. Many questions emerge, for example, who is the author of this artwork now? Is it still a Banksy? Or is it this unknown group of artists?


This group intentions are not clear, but they certainly knew that this would create hype by being controversial. And if they know art history, they know this could skyrocket their collective artistic careers.

The blockchain technology underlying the NFT works as a tool to ensure authenticity, in that it can track the different owners, price and profit of a specific artwork. An artwork produced as an NFT can therefore be a powerful tool to avoid forgeries, for example. But, our point here is, this 'Burnt Banksy' became a new artwork because we suppose this particular NFT cleared all the previous ownership history of that original print. And by calling it 'Burnt Banksy', we think it is clear that this is no longer a Banksy, but rather a new work of art. But opinions may vary.


Do you think this group of artists have created a new artwork or is this a derivative of the original work by Banksy?Where do you think ownership and credit lies for this artwork 'Burnt Banksy'? 


  #banksy #johnbaldessari #raushenberg #ownership

You can watch the video here

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