Leading UK artists angry after works sold as NFTs without consent

Pieces by artists including Anish Kapoor and David Bailey for 'Art Wars' project sell for $6.7m online

A work by Sir Anish Kapoor was reportedly included in the 'Art Wars' NFT project without his consent. Getty
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Some of Britain's best-known artists are angry after their works were sold as non-fungible tokens without their consent or knowledge.

The works, created by artists such as photographer David Bailey and sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, were among those included in a collection by curator Ben Moore and sold as NFTs in exchange for cryptocurrency.

The items originally belonged to an project called Art Wars, a collection of physical Star Wars Stormtrooper helmets created by over 300 artists.

The collection first came to prominence after the helmets were displayed at London's Saatchi Gallery in 2013.

Investors have already paid £5 million ($6.7m) for the items since the collection of 1,138 images went up for sale on the OpenSea NFT trading platform earlier this month.

However, Mr Moore's efforts to photograph the collection and “mint” them as NFTs angered some of the artists included in the original Art Wars project.

Mr Moore said he sent an email to all of the artists on November 4, notifying them their works would be part of the collection.

The Financial Times reported that about 12 artists were considering legal action against Mr Moore.

One of them is artist Helen Downie, who goes by the name Unskilled Worker.

“If exploiting artists’ intellectual property goes unchallenged, this behaviour will ruin and corrupt what is a truly exciting space for artists and collectors alike,” she said.

The Art Wars NFT page on OpenSea was taken down earlier this week following a copyright infringement notice.

It is understood that a work by Damien Hirst was intended to be included in the project, but was removed after his representatives intervened.

NFTs have gained in popularity in recent months, but confusion surrounds their legal status.

Those who buy an artwork as an NFT do not own the intellectual property outright, but instead have public proof of ownership of the digital asset on the blockchain.

The Design and Artist Copyright Society said: “The minting of NFTs without artist’s permission has the potential to destroy how we, as a society value creativity and within this, guarantee that artists are protected through existing intellectual property laws and mechanisms such as the artist’s resale right.”

Ben Moore has been contacted by The National for comment

Updated: November 23, 2021, 5:15 PM