LONDON (Reuters) – Secretive British street artist Banksy often paints on walls at night and has complained when people remove and re-sell his works, so he is sure to be infuriated by Sotheby’s offering of about 70 items for “private sale” in London.
Dubbed “The Unauthorised Retrospective” and curated by Steve Lazarides, a street-art promoter and Banksy’s former agent, the London show includes sculptures, oils, and prints – all of which are said to have increased enormously in value in a few years.
“I think for him it’s probably the last thing in the world he’d ever want to see,” Lazarides told Reuters at a press preview of the exhibition on Friday.
“It’s an unauthorised exhibition – he has nothing to do with it apart from the fact he painted all the paintings, of course. For him – I don’t know – I think it’s interesting to get all the works together. It will probably mean more commercially than it will mean anything else.”
Sotheby’s officials at the preview in the Sotheby’s S2 gallery declined to share a price list with a reporter who asked for it, but a brochure that was handed out said: “The works on display in S2 are available for private sale, offering an exciting new dimension to the Sotheby’s experience.”
“Some of these pieces when they were originally sold were 50 to 100 pounds and now some of them are half a million to a million pounds so it would be very interesting to see the difference in people’s reactions from when they cost that much to when they cost this much, so we’ll see,” Lazarides said.
The gallery show is not the first unauthorised exhibition and sale of Banksy’s work. In April the ME Hotel in London held the “Stealing Banksy?” exhibition.
In response, a message appeared on Banksy’s website saying “Banksy would like to make it clear – this show has nothing to do with me and I think it’s disgusting people are allowed to go displaying art on walls without getting permission.”
As of late on Friday, there was no apparent reaction from Banksy to the Sotheby’s show on his website www.banksy.co.uk, which showed only a livestock truck stuffed with the heads of cartoon-style animals popping out through openings.
For the show, the gallery walls have been spray-painted red and black using a fire extinguisher, “picking the true vandal’s weapon of choice”, as Lazarides put it, to create a background that fits the work.
Pieces still being installed during the preview included Andy Warhol-esque pictures which feature – and are signed by – model Kate Moss and the Banksy classic “Pulp Fiction” featuring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson carrying bananas instead of guns.
Sotheby’s first got involved with Banksy when the auction house sold one of his prints back in 2004. Now they are selling off these pieces to collectors at even greater prices.
“The market has embraced Banksy very quickly and probably in many ways it’s quite shocking for him too,” said Sheyenne Westphal, the Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s.
“There’s a print downstairs that says ‘You morons, buy this…’ and I think there was a shock for him that his prices on the secondary market shot up as they did. But the truth is a lot of collectors want to own a piece by Banksy and when you’re here in this room, you understand why,” said Westphal.
The exhibition, which features never-before-seen works of art, will be open to the public from June 11 until July 25.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Gareth Jones)