Why ‘Fake Banksy’ earns more than $1 million in Ethereum from NFT transactions

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With a charity and some slapdash art theory as a mask, a copycat heads off with 512 ETH in NFT revenue.

As Crypto’s Twitter group discusses the fair value of Cryptopunks and other NFTs rising to sky-high valuations, there is at least one strong indication that the digital collectibles market is increasing irrationally: a person posing as Banksy, perhaps the most popular living artist, has received over $1 million in Ether (ETH) in NFT sales.

Starting Sunday, Feb. 14, regular NFT marketplace browsers Opensea and Rarible found an account called “Pest Supply” with branding and non-fungible tokens made in Banksy’s trademark graffiti-stencil style. Many were quick to jump in, given the “real” Banksy habit of pop-up installations:

 

Wallet profiler Nansen reveals that the address of the person first became active on Feb. 13 and was most active yesterday, Feb. 19. Until Opensea wiped out all of the account history and disabled more transactions, the account records revealed hundreds of sales to customers ranging from 0.116 ETH to more than 60 ETH for a piece named “NFT morons.” Noted whale wallet 0xb1 had made a few purchases, including one transaction worth 34 ETH or $68,000.

In an email about Banksy’s “legal guardian,” Pest Control, denied any involvement with the NFTs. Likewise, the person suggested that they were selling knock-offs, comparing themselves to the artist Elaine Sturtevant, who was notorious for incorrect replicas of the work of more famous artists, on their Rarible Bio.

A total of 512 ETHs were taken into account, per Nansen, with almost 430 ETHs being sent to a secondary address. The person’s Rarible page contains a series of screenshots and Etherscan transactions that tend to prove 23.5 ETH in donations to Save The Girls, a charitable organization—less than 5 per cent of the overall transportation of the individual.

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But the duped collectors are now left wondering: have we been tricked? Might this be a double bluff and a true banking facility? Do the NFTs have meaning in any way?

Real or fake? Who cares?

Max Osiris, a prominent crypto artist, tipped off the community that Banksy’s “legal guardian,” Pest Control, had denied any association with the NFTs in an email:

The email exchange that Osiris sent to Cointelegraph shows Osiris asking if the NFTs are Banksy works classified as “legit undercover” and Pest Control answering by saying “there is no affiliation in any way, form or form.” Cointelegraph contacted Pest Control and received no response.

This alone does not prove that the NFTs are fake banking jobs, however, as Pest Control is known to deny association with ongoing installations. Instead, the individual’s Rarible page is now the clearest sign that they are not linked to Banksy.

“Locked by decentralized OpenSea as they have no idea who Elaine Sturtevant is and know nothing about art history. This is art history in making,” reads the individual’s bio.

Sturtevant is known for re-creating the works of more famous artists from memory, a practise that some claim poses philosophical concerns about the essence of authenticity and originality.

The NFT Art Review Art Blog supports the view that the fake bank is operating in this fashion, writing that the person is performing “phenomenal appropriation art that dissects the perception from the collecting circle and how value can be created from satire.”

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The person may have modified their Rarible Bio on Friday night in direct response to the blog that was published on Friday morning.

Osiris claims that it is actually up to the collector to make these value decisions, and it is up to them to defend themselves from fakes—whatever that means.

“Yes, I think art has value even if it’s a fake because it’s up to the collector to figure out what they’re getting. In a sense this is a pretty successful art project, especially if the money goes to where they claim it will go,” he said, referencing the individual’s charity efforts.

Two of the works currently described in Banksy’s style are priced at more than 100 ETH, or $200,000 each. Person claims to have contributed nearly $47,000 to the charity.

Signs of froth

Noted NFT collector-whale Pranksy was probably the clearest indication of an overheated market with its own NFT sprint, a real hat-on-hat called NFT “Pest Demand.”

Though he says he made the run in an attempt to “make” a fake banksy, instead he made 12 ETHs, or $24,000, in sales.

“People have bought it because they’re all euphoric,” said Pranksy.

Artist “Twerky Pepe” underscored the irony of the situation with a tweet in which they advertised their Pranksy purchase as either a good investment or a nice, ironic purchase (the Cointelegraph weekend editorial team was unable to divine which):

Osiris admits that collectors and speculators are over-excited at this point of the market and claims that the artist has, in fact, manipulated those very sentiments.

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“It’s a clever little-of-hand move by someone who has timed the excitement of ‘celebrities’ coming into space, the mystery of Banksy’s modus operandi, and Rarible’s verification system,” he said. The person was able to receive a rare “yellow checkmark” because they were not, in technical terms, posing as Banksy, only using Banksy’s style and legal resemblance.

It’s mania that can only get worse, he said.

“The frenzy around NFT’s has created a sort of monster where people are trying to rush in and be the first to get something that becomes valuable and fail to look deeper or do more research.”

Sales for a fake bank starts rapidly, with at least a dozen NFTs purchased in the last 12 hours.

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