Basquiat NFT Pulled from Auction after Sparking Controversy

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An NFT of a drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat has been withdrawn from auction after it was discovered that the seller did not possess the license or rights to the work, The Art Newspaper reports. After the firm Daystrom listed Free Comb with Pagoda, 1986, for sale on the OpenSea platform and offered the purchaser the option of destroying the original, physical work, Basquiat’s estate stepped in.

“The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat owns the copyright in the artwork referenced,” said estate representative David Stark. “No license or rights were conveyed to the seller and the NFT has subsequently been removed from sale.”

The work, which Daystrom claims was authenticated by the late artist’s foundation in 2002, last went under the hammer in 2012, when it was offered by Heritage Auctions of Texas. It was expected to fetch between $80,000 and $120,000, but failed to sell, and in 2015 was purchased privately via a Philadelphia gallery for an undisclosed amount.

Daystrom, the firm behind the 2000 launch of David Bowie’s online bank, had offered “reproduction and IP rights that will be sold to the highest bidder in perpetuity.” The tender, paired with the offered chance for the new owner to destroy the original work, immediately raised questions regarding intellectual property rights—possession of an NFT, like that of a physical work, does not typically guarantee an owner copyright—as well as the specter of the artist’s moral rights.

“While blockchain transactions are widely considered a trusted source of authentication and provenance,” Daystrom said following the work’s withdrawal from sale, “best copyright practices have yet to evolve for the digital economy.”

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