Banksy's Walled Off Hotel Box Set defines a new landmark for the growing overlap between traditional and NFT art. Launched by LCD Labs, their NFT collection gives collectors a chance to access one of history's most legendary artists — but it leaves them with a choice. Léa Rose Emery explores how the team are distributing 1,000 Banksy artworks, how NFTs and traditional art intersect, and what it means for NFTs.
The overlap between the digital and the physical art spheres is becoming a more and more fruitful space — from physical gallery exhibitions of NFTs to a full synthesis of the digital and the traditional. Never to be left behind, it is unsurprising to see the internationally-renowned graffiti artist Banksy at the forefront, defining a new connection between NFTs, art, and utility. He is at the heart of a new collaboration between Magic Eden and LCD Labs, linking an NFT collection to physical art pieces from the Banksy Walled Off Hotel Box Set. A groundbreaking innovation for the NFT ecosystem, this is the first NFT collection where each NFT is attached to a physical art piece — and by a legendary artist.
It feels fitting that the boundary-crossing guerilla artist, Banksy is at the heart of this innovative crossover of the digital and physical art worlds. The British artist opened the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine, in 2017 and advertised it as the hotel “with the worst view in the world”, a critical commentary on Israeli infrastructure and settlements in the West Bank. The Box Set was offered to visitors between 2017 and 2019, with an estimated 6,000 editions sold, each uniquely identified by the visitor's hotel invoice.
The particular relationship between the NFTs, which are limited to 1,000 editions, and the physical pieces, is what makes the project so intriguing. The choice to retain the NFT for special access to the LCD ecosystem or to burn it in exchange for the physical Banksy piece is a key part of the collaboration — and it is a choice that will fall to each individual collector.
The NFTs themselves are designed by the artist, Leo Caillard and the gallerist, Baptiste Ozenne. The pair have spent many years collecting 1,000 editions of the Box Set (one for each NFT), and are launching the project with their Radar Rats collection, 1,000 Banksy-inspired artworks on the Solana blockchain. Each of the rats is unique, algorithmically generated with over 70 unique traits, and inspired by other Banksy pieces.
Jack Lu, CEO of Magic Eden, explains that the company is always looking to bring innovative collections onto the platform, particularly as they gear up to compete in the far larger NFT market on Ethereum, dominated by OpenSea. “By introducing the legendary art of Banksy into the NFT world and piloting a unique burn mechanism in which an NFT can be redeemed for a physical art piece, we engage a community of passionate NFT collectors who are expressing greater demand for fine art.”
During the sale, 10% of the profits will be shared with the Banksy Walled Off Hotel, toward facilitating and organising an urban art festival in Bethlehem. When Banksy opened the hotel in 2017, he remarked “it’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture — with chaotic results. I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.” The Box Set features Banksy’s iconic and arresting style: his traditionally extreme grayscale with splashes of colour, set within thick, white frames and printed on concrete wall.
How digital and physical art will connect and overlap in the future is still being imagined, developed, and deployed — but this project is an intriguing step. Moving beyond simply displaying digital art in the traditional gallery space, it bridges the gap by linking a digital piece with a physical one. And while Banksy is a useful hook that will expand awareness and introduces NFTs to new audiences, it also gives web3-native collectors and traders greater access to traditional art, reflecting how the two worlds are increasingly overlapping.
Ozenne explains, “with this project, we hope to onboard a brand new audience to the art market, making it more accessible and fun. We are starting with Banksy, but our vision is to have a mix of upcoming and well-established artist sales for the months to come.”
“We are starting with Banksy, but our vision is to have a mix of upcoming and well-established artist sales for the months to come.”
— Baptiste Ozenne
Léa is an American writer, editor, broadcaster, and presenter based in London. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, The Huffington Post, WhatWeSeee, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Teen Vogue, and The Daily Dot. She is working on her first book.
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