Banksy, the notorious, anonymous street artist who started his career in Bristol, England, has become one of the few artists whose work is highly valuable, and even more highly sought after during while they are still living. The artist’s extremely political art appears overnight on the sides of buildings, on vehicles, on garage doors, and anywhere else they can manage to get to. In recent years, Banksy’s street art has been appearing at auctions and selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, it is not clear whether Banksy even sees a dime.
Opportunistic art dealers such as Stephan Keszler, the owner of Manhattan and Southampton’s Keszler Art Gallery, have taken it upon themselves to purchase large chunks of walls that Banksy has used as a canvas from the buildings’ owners and attempt to sell the works of art for a profit. Keszler refuses to say how much he paid for one of the pieces “Bandaged Heart,” that was recently up for auction, but didn’t sell, except to say that he planned to sell it for more than what he paid. Keszler has purchased and resold 11 of Banksy’s works since 2011.
Keszler says that he began selling street art because it was a niche market that no one had yet cornered.
There were three of Banksy’s pieces up for auction over the weekend that were projected to sell for several hundred thousand dollars each. Keszler declined to release the minimum bids of the two pieces that didn’t sell, but “Kissing Coppers,” which originally appeared on Brighton, England’s Prince Albert Pub in 2005, sold for $575,000. “Bandaged Heart” was projected to sell for between $400,000 to $600,000 and “Crazy Horse Car Door” was estimated to sell for upwards of $200,000.
“Bandaged Heart” is of particular interest to many collectors because after it was first painted on the side of a Red Hook warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, another graffiti artist defaced it, spraying red over the heart and tagging “OMAR NYC.” Later still an addition to the work was added, presumably by Banksy, that says, “is a jealous little girl” under Omar NYC’s tag, and “I remember MY first tag” beneath the heart. The interaction between the two, or possibly more, artists is what gives this particular piece its value.
The car door portion of “Crazy Horse,” which was originally a massive mural and installation painted in New York’s lower east side, is understandably less desirable, as it is not a full work. Nonetheless, the price tag from the appraisal puts to shame the $60 asking price that Banksy attached to the original stencils that the artist was selling via a booth in New York City during his month-long stay there last October.
Reportedly, the remaining two pieces will be available for purchase by interested collectors for another 30 days, and though none have been accepted yet, Keszler says that he is pleased with how promising the offers thus far have been. Banksy’s street art is valued for its political messages and in part because of the artist’s elusiveness, so to many it comes as no surprise that these pieces would sell for thousands, even millions, of dollars. However, whether Banksy sees any of that money is still unclear.
By Robin Syrenne