The initiative of the Parisian studio LCD Lab aims to build a bridge between Web3 and physical art: behind the promises, the communication of the collective also raises questions.
The NFT community of the Solana blockchain has been vibrating since this announcement by the Parisian collective LCD Lab dated August 23, which promises “a new generation of collectors to access the work of Banksy (…) thanks to NFT technology on Magic Eden”. In fact, LCD Lab will offer 1,000 NFTs by the artist on September 17 Leo Caillard for sale, tokens whose particularity is to be individually associated by the studio with an edition of a Banksy Walled Off Box Set, a series of works usually reserved for customers of the Walled Off Hotel, the establishment created by the artist in Bethlehem. These have been acquired over time by the gallery owner and member of LCD Lab, Baptist Ozenne. After the sale, the holder of the NFT will be faced with a choice: keep the virtual token or destroy it to recover the promised work.
For the initiators of this project entitled “Banksy Radar Rats by LCD Lab”, it is above all an experiment: “LCD Lab is above all a laboratory”, assures the co-founder of the studio. “Given the bear market and the difficulty of selling out collections, we agreed on the interest of linking the release of an NFT with a physical work by an artist like Banksy, who speaks really to everyone and has some market value.”
No official association
Despite his pseudonym, it is indeed difficult to be better known than Banksy, famous for his stencils, his activism and… the price of some of his works, the most expensive having been awarded to 11.1 million euros in 2019. Given the mint price of LCD Lab’s NFT (1,000 euros, to be paid in SOL cryptocurrency), the proposal is enough to make your mouth water. Probably a little too much… “The artist Banksy has just joined forces with the company LCD Lab”, we could read at The Geek’s Diaryor “Banksy is joining forces in August 2022 with Magic Eden and the LCD Lab to sell its first artistic collection in NFT” at Arts in the City… But, in a communication transmitted to the JDN, Pest Control (organization guarantor of the authentication of the works of the artist) is clear: “The artist Banksy did not create any NFT. No auction of NFT in the name of Banksy n is affiliated with the artist in any form.” Where does this confusion come from? LCD Lab recognizes a “communication sometimes misunderstood and interpreted as if Banksy was behind the project”. “It has nothing to do with the project and we want to be transparent about it,” continues Baptiste Ozenne.
Collector, curator and NFT expert, Brian Beccafico doesn’t want to bring shame on the studio: “It’s hard to lay the blame on LCD Lab about their communication: people hear what they want, especially in the NFT business. I so don’t say they are dishonest but it is sure that the name of Banksy is used as leverage when this brand is ultimately not theirs. If the project can recall that of the visual artist Damien Hirst, who will burn from September 9 several thousand physical works previously purchased in NFT version by collectors, “the fundamental difference is that Hirst is part of the project from the beginning at the end. There, when Banksy created these editions, he never thought that it was going to be used in this context”, emphasizes Beccafico.
“When Banksy created these editions, he never thought it was going to be used in this setting”
However, if the initiative raises legitimate questions about the appropriation of a work and the intellectual property, the promised physical works are real and legally purchased by the studio. Moreover, to reassure potential buyers, LCD Lab guarantees with the Box Set the delivery of a certificate of authenticity from the hotel and has awarded itself the services of Jean-Marc Scialom, expert in urban art for the auction house Blanchet & Associés. According to the latter, also the holder of NFT in a personal capacity, “the people who have embarked on this adventure are art enthusiasts and collectors of Banksy’s work; somewhere, they are having fun. The graphic creations of the NFTs they are going to issue are also successful.” Baptiste Ozenne also refutes opportunism: “We want the holders of this token to be able to benefit from many exclusives. The NFT also embodies a pass for our platform and our next drops but also for our other digital companies, such as Urban NFT, the platform of the annual Urban Art Fair festival at the Carreau du Temple in Paris. This will therefore give access to drops in this context.”
A recipe of one million euros
In the event of a successful, and therefore integral, sale, the studio will collect one million euros, a sum from which the purchase of the Box Sets must be subtracted, according to Baptiste Ozenne. “Furthermore, the Magic Eden platform (where the mint will take place, editor’s note) takes 6% on the entire drop and we have to pay all the people who accompanied us, especially in communication.” Finally, LCD Lab also promises to share “10% of the profits from the sale with the Walled Off Hotel for the organization of the urban art festival “Face The Wall” in Bethlehem” (contacted, hotel did not respond to JDN’s request). Ironically given the current state of the NFT market, it is the expectation of traditional collectors that could be enough to guarantee the success of the sale. “I didn’t wait for this event to sell Walled Off Boxes, I sell a lot of them every year in different Art Fairs, in Miami, London or Paris, and it’s always the same excitement”, concludes Baptiste Ozen.