American artist Mark Flood is making headlines. As of this past week, his 2013 painting, entitled, "Select a Victim," became the first artwork to be purchased in the U.S. exclusively using Bitcoin. An unidentified Canadian buyer paid a New York-based luxury firm $100,000 – or what was then 12.3 Bitcoin – for the painting, and the deal was completed in total anonymity thanks to the use of the cryptocurrency.
You can now buy a painting, a limited-edition Rolex, or a Lamborghini online and have it shipped to your home, completely anonymously, thanks to Bitcoin – the world’s first decentralized digital currency, which gained popularity due to its ability to send payments without revealing the identity of the sender or receiver – and thanks to firms, such the White Company, which are jumping at the chance to broker high-end deals exclusively using cryptocurrencies.
The New York-based White Company, which was just launched within the past few weeks, boasts the title of “the first and only U.S. fine art and luxury goods dealer that accepts payment by cryptocurrency.” Founded by Elizabeth White, a former LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and McLaren Automotive staffer, the company aims to provide a way for clients “who hold wealth in cryptocurrencies to purchase luxury goods without giving up their desire for anonymity.”
Given the number of unique active users of cryptocurrencies (an estimated 5 to 10 million, according to Dr. Garrick Hileman of the London School of Economics), the timing of the White Company is apt. Couple that with the rise in value of Bitcoin, for instance – which within the past year or even the past week (Bitcoin reached a record price in U.S. trading on Thursday of more than $19,000, before crashing back down to near $17,000 early Thursday afternoon), there is no shortage of individuals who have made millions of dollars – or in the case of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, over a billion dollars – from the currency. With that in mind, the notion of a cryptocurrency-based luxury firm is not so outlandish.
Despite the increasing number of companies – including Microsoft, Paypal, Expedia, Shopify, and Fancy.com, among others – that accept payment in cryptocurrency, the adoption in the luxury goods world is virtually non-existent, according to White. “There’s so much newfound wealth,” White told the Washington Examiner. “A lot of people want to stay private and anonymous. If that’s what they want to do, I want to assist them in transitioning their cryptocurrency into luxury goods.”
Why wouldn’t a buyer merely convert his/her cryptocurrency to U.S. dollars and then make a purchase, you ask? Well, the answer lies most squarely in anonymity, of course. As noted by Markets Insider, “When trying to convert [Bitcoin] into [U.S. dollars], holders of Bitcoin must reveal their identities to the exchange. However, by being able to pay directly for things in cryptocurrency, privacy is fully reassured.”
Such secrecy certainly raises red flags regarding revenue regulations and potential tax evasion, but White and her firm – which, according to White is compliant with all federal regulations – are certainly banking on this as the model of the future, nonetheless. In addition to art, watches, and automobiles, the company is offering “experiences,” such as a suite at the Super Bowl, which White says the company “made happen” this month. She also says that the company has received deposits for “multiple” vehicles in Bitcoin, but also accepts Ethereum and Litecoin, as well.