Uncategorized | April 14, 2021

As Art Market Becomes More “Intangible,” How To Prove Ownership?

In an article for Wealth Briefing, specialists Camilla Wallace and Jack Martin examine the fast-changing art marketplace, where digital works are in high demand and the new patrons are wealthy crypto-enthusiasts. They also look at the legal ownership of street art in the context of some recent incidents involving Banksy’s works.

With the buying tastes of Millennials coming into their own and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) offering new ways for digital artists to generate value from their work, art as an asset class seems to have grown a new a pair of legs. Beeple’s “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” is an example, a digital art piece that is published directly onto a blockchain in the form of an NFT. Although these digital tokens aren’t new, they are increasingly being used to prove ownership of digital works and for provenance on secondary markets. The pandemic has served as a catalyst with the necessary shift online by art dealers, prominent auction houses and artists further attracting Millennial buyers, who spend much of their time on the internet and have as a result become interested in crypto art.

Street art and its principal agitator Banksy are also raising legal questions about the ownership of street art. In early March, a blockchain company called Injective Protocol bought a $95,000 Banksy artwork, burned it and broadcast it live on Twitter. The stunt was part of a process of turning the work into an NFT to be sold as digital art, the physical piece being destroyed so that the value of the work moved onto the NFT. Another Banksy that has recently been altered is the mural that appeared on Reading Prison. This is the second Banksy to be “vandalised” this year; earlier in February, the Valentine’s Day mural that appeared on a house in Bristol was defaced with spray paint only hours after Banksy had finished the piece. Both incidents have raised questions. What should a private property owner do if a piece appears on their property overnight? Can they be held liable for any alterations to the piece if it is in their possession?

This is a summary of the article that was first published by Wealth Briefing on 9 April 2021. You can read the full article here (subscription needed).