Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Banksy’s ‘Kissing Coppers’ auctioned for US$575,000

By Zachary Fagenson  /  Reuters, Miami

Paintings titled Crazy Horse Car Door and in the background, Kissing Coppers, by the British street artist Banksy, are seen on display at LMNT Gallery in Miami, Florida on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

A mural created on the side of a building by the elusive British street artist known as “Banksy” sold for US$575,000 on Tuesday, along with dozens of other graffiti-style works at a Miami auction being closely watched due to the soaring value of street art.

Kissing Coppers, a black-and-white stencil of two British police officers kissing in close embrace, was purchased by an anonymous telephone buyer, Fine Art Auctions Miami said. The work originally appeared on the side of the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, England, in 2005.

The wall is one of several Banksy works removed from their original location and sold to collectors. It was auctioned along with two more Banksy pieces — Bandaged Heart Balloon and Crazy Horse Car Door — created during the artist’s month-long “street residency” in New York City last year.

Those two pieces, priced at US$200,000 and US$100,000 respectively, failed to reach their asking price. The Banksy piece that did sell had a winning bid of US$480,000 plus US$95,000 in fees. It had been expected to fetch between US$500,000 and US$700,000.

The auction of 54 works also included a sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which sold for US$180,000, and a Keith Haring watercolor, Roger in the Flowers.

Banksy, whose graffiti and stenciled paintings appear as social commentary in public spaces and private property around the world, emerged in Bristol, England, in the early 1990s.

Despite having worldwide notoriety and being featured in the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, the artist has kept his real name a secret.

Collectors over the past decade have increasingly sought the often lewd, brightly colored street art painted, drawn or sprayed on everything from metal gates to concrete walls.

“Young people want to have a message, a dialogue, and they want a way to express themselves,” said Frederic Thut, director of Fine Art Auctions Miami.

“The potential of this market is incredible. I was at the first sales of pop art and it was exactly the same people coming from nowhere and buying immediately,” he added.

The three pieces by Banksy were offered by a private collector who wants to remain anonymous, said Thut, adding they were not owned by Stephan Keszler, owner of a New York City gallery known for dealing in works by Banksy.

Keszler in 2013 represented the owner of Slave Labor, a spray-paint image of a young boy kneeling at a sewing machine with Union Jack bunting, which sold for US$1.1 million, Keszler said.

“It’s new, it’s more fun, it’s younger, it’s more democratic,” said Keszler.

Critics say the artworks should not be removed from their original locations, as it takes away from the artist’s original intent.

“The people who are buying this stuff, chopping it off walls, and putting it in their homes don’t realize they only have a piece of the puzzle,” said RJ Rushmore, who runs the Philadelphia-based street art blog Vandalog.com.

The auction comes as Miami looks to bolster its image as a global cultural hub. The annual Art Basel Miami Beach in early December, the largest fair in North America, coincided with the opening of Herzog & de Meuron-designed Perez Art Museum Miami on the shores of Biscayne Bay.

Art Wynwood, a contemporary art fair held a short walk away from Miami’s fast-rising arts district, hosted more than 30,000 visitors over the long President’s Day weekend, browsing works by popular street artists Shepard Fairey and Stinkfish, as well as traditional sculptors and painters, such as Fernando Botero and Wifredo Lam.

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