So Banksy has visited your property. What now? : NPR

BRISTOL, ENGLAND – What Doing What do you do if you notice that Banksy has visited your property?

It's a question Dennis Stinchcombe asked himself ten years ago after a strange work of art appeared on an outside wall overnight. Broad plaina youth center he runs on the outskirts of Bristol.

“[My son] called me and said, 'Dad, you're not going to believe this, but I think there's a Banksy on the wall,'” Stinchcombe, 68, recalls.

The piece was called Mobile enthusiasts.

It showed a couple in an embrace looking over each other's shoulders – their eyes not staring at each other, but at their respective smartphones.

Within 24 hours, Banksy, a Bristol resident who attended Broad Plain as a child, claimed responsibility for the piece his website.

But it wasn't until hundreds of people showed up in front of the mural every day that Stinchcombe realized how valuable this piece was and the intense and precious responsibility he now had to protect it.

“We got threats from several idiots coming by in vans saying they were going to damage it,” says Stinchcombe, who had a team of parents help him move the piece indoors to protect it – and for good reason.

The piece was eventually sold to a private collector for £563,000 (about $700,000), with the proceeds returned to the center.

But the sale was only made possible thanks to a rare letter of authentication that Banksy agreed to prepare for Stinchcombe.

“Without authenticity, no one will buy it,” says Steven Lazarides, a London-based artist who started in the art world as Banksy's official photographer in the late 1990s.

Lazarides says that without an official authentication from Banksy himself, most art galleries and collectors wouldn't dream of touching a Banksy.

There is a practical side to it: authentication protects Banksy against forgeries (which still occur). Ordinary) and the law (admitting to committing criminal damage has its own implications.)

But Lazarides says there is a larger philosophical reason why Banksy has generally shied away from authenticating his street art and why the sale of these pieces is largely frowned upon.

“It becomes a case of someone trying to sell [a Banksy] as a work of art, while it was never intended as a work of art,” he says.

'It's a piece of graffiti. There is a difference between what [artists] do on the street and what they do in the studio.”

But this ethos is not enough to stop people from thinking about making a profit.

Julian Usher leads the Red Eight Art Gallery in East London.

On Valentine's Day 2023, he received a call from a couple from the British seaside resort of Margate.

“It's a lady on the phone who said, 'I think I have a Banksy on my wall,'” Usher recalls.

This piece was called Valentine's mascara. It depicted a 1950s housewife with a black eye who locked her husband in a refrigerator. It seems to draw attention to domestic violence.

valentine s mass custom df2ca260d9dfbcfa5eb897bcbf16b8fc37fad99f

Valentine's mascara by street artist Banksy, on the side of a house in Margate, England.

William Edwards/AFP via Getty Images


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William Edwards/AFP via Getty Images

valentine s mass custom df2ca260d9dfbcfa5eb897bcbf16b8fc37fad99f

Valentine's mascara by street artist Banksy, on the side of a house in Margate, England.

William Edwards/AFP via Getty Images

Usher quickly sent a team of excavators to help dismantle the section of the site and sent it to London.

It is currently on display in the Yamaha store in Soho as Usher tries to find a buyer – something that will take some time without a certificate of authentication from Banksy.

“What's important from my perspective is to keep the artwork alive,” says Usher. “Yes, we can make some money from it, but that's not the overall goal.”

Usher believes that once sold, the piece could fetch up to £3 million ($3.7 million). Most of the proceeds will go back to the owner, with a portion coming from Usher's gallery.

Usher also says a six-figure sum will be donated to a local charity that helps victims of domestic violence.

When asked what he thinks about the fact that what he does remains controversial in the art world – that is, taking street art off the streets and making money from it – he pushes back.

From Usher's point of view, he's just trying to help the property owners who are getting caught up in all this mess.

According to him, there is not enough criticism of Banksy for violating people's property.

“Unfortunately, due to the street works [Banksy] doesn't ask permission,” says Usher. 'He really is the richest vandal in the world. He dumps this on someone's house or property.”

Due to his secrecy, we don't know how much Banksy is worth, although some of his works have sold for millions at auction.

Usher says Banksy's unwillingness to issue authentication certificates is responsible for the creation of this gray market.

Dennis Stinchcombe says despite the headaches, the Banksy saga is one of the greatest things to ever happen to the Broad Plain Youth Center. Before Banksy's mural appeared on his wall, the center was on the brink of bankruptcy.

“If it hadn't been for Banksy we would have closed 10 years ago,” says Stinchcombe.

With the center facing financial difficulties again, Stinchcombe says he is willing to relive the adventure if Banksy will consider putting a second mural on his wall.

When asked why he thinks Banksy chose Broad Plain Mobile enthusiasts, Stinchcombe speculates that it has something to do with what Banksy learned as a child when he visited the centre.

“There is such a thing as values, and life is really what you make of it,” says Stinchcombe. “We teach kids that if you want something, you have to go get it – and if you don't put it in, you can't get it out.”

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