Banksy's $60 Prank Gets Serious at Bonhams

2 Jul 2014, Post-War & Contemporary Art

Two new Banksy works purchased during his 2013 'residency' in New York – for just $60 apiece – will feature in Bonhams next sale of Contemporary Art on July 2nd in London for a price which reflects their true value.

Estimated at £50,000 – 70,000 and £30,000 - 50,000 Kids on Guns and Winnie the Pooh were both acquired from Banksy's Central Park stall where an unassuming trader sold his paintings to passing tourists.

Film footage shows Banksy's immediately recognizable black and white stenciled canvases stacked on a trestle table or suspended on the stall's makeshift metal framework. One canvas was stenciled with a discount store label announcing the price of each work as $60. The following day the event was documented on the artist's website: "Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each."

For the casual observer it must have been difficult to believe that the works were in fact genuine. The nature of the trader and stand, located in one of New York's tourist hotspots, and the overall display of the works was a master stroke, a setting and presentation at odds with the hallowed space of a gallery environment designed to lend artworks gravitas and, by association, added value. Consequently the first paintings weren't sold until 3.30pm when a lady acquired two for her children after first negotiating a 50% discount. The footage shows them being placed without protection in a blue plastic carrier bag. Kids on Guns and Winnie The Pooh the two lots offered at Bonhams July 2nd sale were purchased shortly afterwards.

Gareth Williams Head of Contemporary Art at Bonhams comments: "The Central Park stall was one of Banksy's greatest coups during Better Out Than In, his 31 day unofficial residency in New York City, where he attempted to unveil a new work every day during October 2013. The fact that his paintings were original and were being offered
at a tiny fraction of their true retail value raises real questions about the perception of worth and the nature of art as commodity within the marketplace, something that the artist must be acutely aware of."

Banksy's website was careful to add "Please note: This was a one off. The stall will not be there again today." in order to avoid the dangerous sales scrum that would have resulted from the changed perception of these very same works.

Other works unveiled during the residency included a number of his famous stencils many of which incorporated the city's street furniture into their designs; a performance piece with a shoe shiner polishing the oversized boots worn by a fiberglass replica of Ronald McDonald; and Sirens of the Lambs a truck filled with stuffed squealing animals which toured the Meatpacking District. Despite the widespread international media coverage the works were executed covertly, presumably so that the artist could avoid arrest. On day 23 the failure of a new work to emerge was explained when his website announced 'Today's art has been canceled due to police activity'.

Alongside these paintings from Better Out Than In, two further works by the artist are included in the same auction. Slow Down, estimated at £70,000-100,000 is one of the very rare street pieces to have been released by the artist's studio and to have been issued a certificate of authenticity by Pest Control. Formed from two street signs it features a parachuting cow. Heavy Weaponry, a work on canvas depicts the artists' iconic elephant with a rocket strapped to its back, will be offered at £30,000-50,000.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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