Banksy gallery shows are a rare breed—not least because the artist is not currently represented by anyone. Understandably, the anonymous street artist has shied away from his own market success. After all, impressing the elitist art world doesn’t exactly do wonders for your street cred. He even set up his own handling and authentication company, Pest Control, to throw a wrench in the works of profit-hungry dealers and street art scavengers eager to make a quick buck. Most major auction houses now refuse to sell works that haven’t been authenticated by the service.
But for a period between 1997 and 2008, street art dealer Steve Lazarides acted as Banksy’s official photographer and gallerist. The two eventually severed ties, but now, work produced in these years, specifically between 2002 and 2008, is the subject of a widely hyped “Greatest Hits” show at Lazarides’s new Mayfair gallery Lazinc. The dealer opened the London space in January with cofounder Wissam Al Mana, the Qatari business magnate and art collector.
Banksy hasn’t given his permission for the show (he hasn’t spoken with Lazarides in the decade since their split), which opens on Thursday and runs through August 25. But the dealer says he doesn’t need the artist’s consent. “The works have all come from international private collections and are secondary market works,” Lazarides told artnet News, adding, “Banksy has not been involved with the curation of the exhibition.”
In recent years, the artist has produced a few select pieces for charity and engaged in some market-defying stunts (he sold a bunch of signed originals at a makeshift stand in Central Park in 2013 for just $60). But mostly, Banksy has restricted his canvas to the street. Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t stopped the secondary market from going wild in his absence—a fact that Lazarides knows all too well.
Lazinc is showing around 40 secondary market works, including stenciled canvases, unique paintings, sculptures, and limited edition prints. None of the works on view, Lazarides stresses, have been “salvaged” from the streets. In fact, none are officially for sale, despite what the dealer acknowledges as the artist’s “meteoric” market success.
That said, three paintings priced between $662,000 and $2 million have already sold within 24 hours of the show opening to VIPs, according to the Art Newspaper.
Banksy’s auction record was achieved in 2008, when a defaced Damien Hirst spot painting called Keep it Spotless (2007) sold at Sotheby’s New York for $1,870,000 with premium, according to the Artnet Price Database. Two other Banksys have also broken the million-dollar mark: the painting Simple Intelligence Testing, which sold for $1.3 million, also in 2008 at Sotheby’s London, and the sculpture Submerged Phone Booth, which brought in $1.2 million at Phillips London in 2014.
Two unique paintings in the “Greatest Hits” show—Show Me the Monet (2005) and Media at War (2007)—which first went on the market at around $20,000, now sport values estimated by Lazarides to be above $6.6 million. The aptly titled Show me the Monet, a cynical update to Claude Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies (1899), first showed in Banksy’s “Crude Oils” exhibition of remixed masterpieces in 2005 in London, alongside an installation featuring 200 live black rats.
Lazarides is also showing several iterations of painted multiples, including Love Is In The Air (2006), acquired from the artist directly in 2006 for around $300. (An edition of the image, sometimes known as “Flower Thrower,” sold for $248,667 at Bonhams in London in 2013.) Also on view is Girl and Balloon (2006), which was voted the UK’s favorite artwork last year, surpassing a Constable painting.
The exhibition also showcases popular prints, such as Stop and Search, 2007 (one from an edition of 500 sold at Bonhams London 2016 for $45,868) and Laugh Now, 2003 (another from a batch of 500 which also sold at Bonhams London in December last year for $40,192).
Lazarides says he anticipates that thousands will attend the show during its run. The gallery says no public museums or institutions in the UK can name Banksy as part of their permanent collection (although it’s worth noting that Sincura Arts, the group notorious for “salvaging” many of Banksy’s street art works, is planning to open a Street Art Museum in Liverpool in 2019).
“Banksy Greatest Hits 2002–2008” runs from July 12 through August 25, 2018, at gallery Lazinc in London.
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