An art gallery just sold one of its works for a record $1.3 million (US) in Bitcoin. The auction sale was made available through Instagram, Postmates and Signal through Āto Gallery.
An anonymous buyer out there just couldn't live without this artwork that was sold through Āto Gallery, which is an online venture that was founded by Carrie Eldridge in 2016. The piece was made by Benjamin Katz and titled, Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights. It sold for 150 Bitcoins, which is currently the record price for such a thing.
Eldridge says that shortly after she put up a picture of the artwork on the gallery website, she was contacted by an interested but anonymous buyer through Instagram. Curious how much the art cost, the potential buyer communicated to Katz and Eldridge both and asked that they use Signal, which is an encrypted messaging service.
Surprised how quickly the artwork got attention, Eldridge hadn’t yet priced the work and was struggling on where to place it. She first compared it to other works by Katz that ranged from $5,000 to $100,000, but needed to be certain, and so she checked with her art advisors to see what a fair price would be. It was at that same time the collector offered an astronomical 150 Bitcoin for the work.
Benjamin Katz, Chasing Hearts/Northern Lights (2018). Courtesy of Āto Gallery.
"I had this ethical dilemma!” Eldridge said in an interview with artnetnews. “I asked my team of art directors and they said ‘Carrie, the price is the market price, if they offered that, and they feel that they want to pay that’—so we asked ‘are you sure?’ and they said 'yes, absolutely.'"
Benjamin Katz said in a statement that the artwork's colors are representative of the auroras over the country of Iceland. "I added the hearts as symbolism for people looking for love; moving in all directions caught up in this powerful magnetic field,” Katz said. "I chose the northern lights because of my connections to Iceland, and love for the beauty of that country."
Currently the buyer of the work remains completely unknown to all involved, including the gallery itself. In addition to communicating through Signal, the buyer had a Postmates courier retrieve the work. Eldridge didn't like the idea of not knowing who bought the work. She said the whole reason for being open on the Internet with the gallery is to be transparent and not give someone an avenue to launder money.