An iconic work by street artist Banksy has found a new home in a former Detroit jail – now the gallery known as 555 Gallery. The artwork was originally created on the wall of an old car factory, and was salvaged when the building was demolished. It depicts a young boy holding a paintbrush next to the ‘freshly painted’ words “I remember when all this was trees”.
The piece was salvaged by artists from the 555 Gallery apparently motivated by a desire to preserve the work. But the property owner consequently sued the gallery for ‘removing the artwork without permission’. The dispute was only settled when the gallery paid the property owner $2,500 – a pretty good deal for an artwork worth an estimated $100,000!
But there has also been flack from the street art community who argue that the 555 Gallery violated the work when they removed it from its intended context – an on-going and thoroughly tired debate. Gallery Director Carl Goines responded to such criticism saying that the work was on ‘one of the last walls standing in a large area of debris’: ‘Our justification was we felt it was a valuable piece by a well-known international artist here in Detroit worth preserving.’
A recent auction auction of Urban Art was held at Bonhams saw Banksy artworks make nearly half a million pounds. It featured 17 art works by the internationally renowned graffiti artist, and it was the first time that some of the artwork has been up for auction, with many pieces fetching some serious pre-sale estimations.
Works such as ‘Leopard and Barcode’, which has which has never before been seen at auction, attracted a pre-sale estimate of £60,000 – £80,000, went under the hammer at the high end, selling for an impressive £75,650. But the real show stealer of the night was ‘Girl and Balloon’ – a work painted on the cardboard back of an Ikea piece of furniture. Estimated to go for between £15,000-£25,000, it exceeded all expectations, fetching an incredible £73,250 – that’s five times the estimate!
Alan Montgomery, Urban Art Specialist at Bonhams said that interest in Banksy’s work is still very high: ‘It seems that the public just can’t get enough of him, and his continued anonymity, even following last year’s Oscar Nomination, only adds to his enigma.’
Banksy’s work typically includes satirical social and political commentary, and ranges from murals to sculpture and installation, often playing with the contextual aspects of the work. The artist’s first solo show was held in 2002 at Los Angeles’ 33 1/3 Gallery, and in 2003 he was commissioned to design to cover of Blur’s ThinkTank. Today, Banksy’s work appears internationally; most notably, he painted nine sardonic images on the Palestinian side of the West Bank barrier. In Summer 2009, Banksy took over the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with an exhibition attracting over 300,000 visitors and hour-long queues all the way down the road. Most recently the artist has experimented with film, achieving an Oscar nomination for his documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.
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