The NFT world continues to be strange and occasionally fantastic, but today’s news deserves an award: a collector spent more than $300,000 in Ethereum for an NFT from someone claiming to be Banksy after the image emerged on the iconic street artist’s website. Then, a spokeswoman for Banksy stated that the artist had no association with NFTs, and tales began to circulate labelling it a forgery. Finally, the NFT’s seller repaid the collector on the spur of the moment, with no explanation. To further complicate matters, the collector who purchased the NFT goes by the moniker Pranksy.
Pranksy told the BBC that he learned about the auction on the NFT marketplace OpenSea from someone in his Discord channel. (While the BBC does not identify Pranksy by name, he has since stated that he purchased the NFT, which can be verified on his OpenSea website.) The vendor had posted a link to a page on Banksy’s official website, https://banksy.co.uk/nft.html, which the Wayback Machine confirmed exists. The page included a photo of the NFT for sale, which depicted a Cryptopunk-like individual smoking in front of industrial smokestacks.
Less than an hour later, the seller accepted Pranksy’s bid for more over $300,000, leading him to believe it was a fraud. The removal of the NFT page from Banksy’s website did nothing to alleviate that concern. The artist’s publicist then told the BBC that there had been no NFT actions affiliated with Banksy and that the artist had not “made any NFT artworks.” At that moment, Pransky had come to terms with the fact that he had been duped.
He wasn’t the first to do so. We’ve seen vendors try to pass off other artists’ work as their own before, and if this situation involved almost any other artist, there’d be no doubt if this was a scam – especially given the strangeness with duplication. According to Pranksy, another fraudster made a replica NFT and then presented it to him. The other person used a username identical to the original seller’s, coined a few extra NFTs in the same method, and then sent one to Pranksy. Since then, a slew of new forgers have emerged, minting the same images as NFTs, sending some to Pransky and advertising the rest for sale. Nobody should, it probably goes without saying.
With Banksy, though, there is always some degree of uncertainty as to what is or isn’t the artist’s work. This is the same person who claims to have attempted to construct a painting that destroyed itself and who apparently had his comment “copyright is for losers” hurled back at him during a trademark case. What is irony, what is real, and what is not is usually up in the air with him. While his team’s denials appear to be unequivocal, they have yet to respond to The Verge or the BBC regarding how the link for the NFT wound up on Banksy’s website.