Sotheby’s to accept cryptocurrencies for physical art

Sotheby’s

It was only a matter of time. Sotheby’s, the world’s largest auction house has confirmed that it will start accepting cryptocurrencies for physical art. The digital coins will be accepted via Coinbase.

Bitcoin and Ether, at least.

Established in 1744, Sotheby’s describes itself as the world’s largest marketplace for art and luxury. With a network of specialists spanning 40 countries and 44 departments, it hosts over 600 auctions annually. It is the number one auction house by turnover, followed by Christie’s, according to Artprice.com.

The auction house says this is the first time that cryptocurrencies will be accepted for payments for physical arts — a fact that the organization is really excited to see happen.

The first auction for which these two digital currencies will be accepted is Banksy’s Love is in the Air image at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction. The piece is estimated to sell anywhere between $3 million and $5 million.

Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart confirmed on CNBC Tuesday:

“It’s something we have been thinking about for quite some time. We had our first NFT sale a few weeks back. We had over 3,000 bidders and participants in that sale series.”

Stewart added that the popularity of that sale made the organization really think that they needed to take this next step and begin to explore accepting crypto as payments for physical arts as well.

Coinbase explained that while Sotheby’s will accept Bitcoin and Ethereum for this upcoming auction set to take place on May 12, though the auction itself will be conducted in US dollars. The buyer and artist will have the option to transact in either crypto or fiat currencies.

When asked whether Sotheby’s will be keeping cryptocurrencies on its balance sheet, the CEO elaborated that his company has an agreement with the owner and cosigner of the painting, and it will ultimately be up to them.

However, he noted that with the partnership in place with Coinbase, keeping cryptocurrency in the treasury is also a possibility.


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