The first NFT featuring original work from the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat went to auction this week, with the conditions of the sale spurring controversy. And within days, the NFT was withdrawn.
The DAYstrom-sponsored auction launched April 26 and was set to run until April 30. The highest bidder would have gained access to an encrypted digitized token of Basquiat’s original mixed media work Free Comb With Pagoda on the Etherium blockchain, as well as all IP and copyright. The work and Basquiat’s signature, as claimed in a press release, had been previously certified by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In addition to the growing controversy surrounding the NFT world at large, the Basquiat auction received pushback from many regarding this particular sale’s caveat of the original artwork being “deconstructed” at the winner’s discretion, a possible outcome that would have effectively made the NFT the only form of this piece in existence.
As noted in Anny Shaw’s Art Newspaper report on the Basquiat NFT, the original 1986 mixed media piece was privately purchased in 2015 for an amount that wasn’t publicly disclosed. Prior to the 2015 sale, it had been offered at a 2012 auction in Texas for between $80,000 and $120,000 but did not secure a buyer.
On Wednesday, in a new report from Shaw, it was confirmed the Basquiat NFT had been withdrawn from auction after the late artist’s estate said the seller did not possess the license or rights to the work in question.
“The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat owns the copyright in the artwork referenced,” David Stark, the licensing agent who works with the Basquiat archive, told Art Newspaper on Wednesday. “No license or rights were conveyed to the seller and the NFT has subsequently been removed from sale.”
Earlier this week, the NFT marketplace was rocked by a controversy involving a Chadwick Boseman NFT released amid the 2021 Oscars. The artist behind that NFT, Andre Oshea, ultimately released a statement stating the piece would be redesigned.