As if understanding the NFT art world wasn’t already like descending into Dante’s Inferno, here comes a group of self-proclaimed “tech and art enthusiasts” who are selling a Banksy print as an NFT—but not before they have burned the original.In a video posted yesterday on the Twitter account, BurntBanksy, one member of the group takes a lighter to the 2006 print, titled Morons, which was reportedly purchased for $33,000 at Christie’s in December and came with a Pest Control certificate of authenticity. The print, which features the line, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit”, is a satirical poke at the shallow, over-inflated art market. The reason for the stunt? The BurntBanksy member explains to camera: “If you were to have the NFT and the physical piece, the value would be primarily in the physical piece. 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.”Still with us?Wearing a sweatshirt with Banksy’s Girl With Balloon image on it (we have no idea if the garment is official merchandise), the young man attempts to set fire to the print with a lighter. After a pain-staking three minutes, the work on paper is eventually burned to a crisp.
If, as the BurntBanksy member says, the goal is to “inspire technology enthusiasts and […] artists”, the goal is also to make money. The NFT, which was minted on SuperFarm, will be auctioned today on the OpenSea marketplace (until 9 March). Slow burn indeed. Of course, it is not the first time Banksy has been drawn into the NFT debacle (nor is it the first time a work of art has been burned: in 1994, the K Foundation famously set fire to one million pounds). Last week, NFT works inspired by the British street artist netted $900,000, though Banksy declared no “affiliation in any way, shape or form” with the digital series.For some, such as Michael J. Casey of CoinDesk, burning Banksy’s Morons is “a brilliant iconoclastic act, offering rich meta commentary on culture, property and power”. For others, it is merely another layer to the NFT absurdity.