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Banksy on fire, Morons (White)
Morons (White), acquired by Injective Protocolvia Injective Protocol

A $95K Banksy artwork has been set on fire and turned into an NFT

The anonymous group behind the stunt says it is ‘an expression of art itself’

A sudden, insatiable thirst for cryptoart has seized the art world. Earlier this week, Grimes pocketed almost $6 million after auctioning off several pieces of original digital artwork, while in February Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile sold an NFT for $6.6 million – 100 times more than the $66,666 he acquired it for in October. 

And now a blockchain company has physically destroyed a piece of art by Banksy in order to make its existence completely digital. 

Injective Protocol reportedly paid $95,000 for the Banksy artwork titled Morons (White), which features an auction for a painting that reads, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t”. The group of self-proclaimed “tech and art enthusiasts” then proceeded to set the piece on fire and livestream the destruction through the Twitter account BurntBanksy. It is now solely available as an NFT (non-fungible token) and can only be purchased and viewed digitally, presumably by morons.

In the video which you can watch below, a member of the anonymous group says that the goal of this stunt is to “inspire” technology enthusiasts and artists and to “explore a new medium of artistic expression.” He explains: “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.”

The young man, clad in a hoodie with Banksy’s Girl With Balloon on it, then attempts to set fire to the artwork, a somewhat painstaking process that takes roughly three minutes. The NFT, which was minted on SuperFarm, will be auctioned on the OpenSea marketplace until 9 March.

The group of art arsonists specifically chose a Banksy artwork, Injective Protocol executive Mirza Uddin told CBS News, due to the artist’s history of pranks. “We specifically chose a Banksy piece since he has previously shredded one of his own artworks at an auction,” Uddin said. “We view this burning event as an expression of art itself.” 

Uddin added that the project is a validation of the blockchain's ability to stand in for physical art assets. “We entirely recreate the physical piece and input specifications, such as the art version number into the smart contract code, so no one can ever alter the digital art in any way,” he said. “The physical piece will forever be memorialized in this NFT.”

Perhaps putting a slight spanner in the works, however, is the fact the Morons (White) print the group chose to make their big statement with is actually one of an edition of 500, meaning that despite burning it, they haven’t actually removed the physical artwork from existence. Whether that will impact the decision of potential buyers of the “true piece that exists in the world” remains to be seen.