WHEN it opened for business, the makeshift stall of black and white canvases was ignored by thousands, with hours passing before its proprietor made his first sale of the day.
Even then, his clientèle were not habitués of galleries and exhibition space. One explained he was redecorating and simply needed “something for the walls,” while another made an impulse buy for her children, but not before haggling the price down.
But for the handful of people who picked up one of the items of street art during their journey through New York’s Central Park on Saturday afternoon, their purchases will now be coveted the world over.
In the latest example of his subversive approach to the art world, Banksy has revealed how he sold signed originals of his work – dubbed on a simple sign as ‘spray art’ - to unwitting locals and tourists for a fraction of their real value.
The guerilla artist is regarded as one of the most exciting proponents of modern art, and pieces have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Yet his temporary pop-up booth exhibition in Central Park did not seem to capture the public imagination.
It took three and a half hours for the first sale, and over the course of the day, just eight of the authentic stencilled works found new owners, including one who insisted on a half-price discount, walking away with artworks valued at £20,000 each for just £18 a pop.
The elusive artist – in New York for a month-long residency, during which he has promised a new piece of street art every day - posted a video on his website showing a man selling what appeared to be fake Banksys in the park. In a short post accompanying the hidden-camera footage, the artist explained: “Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each.”
The video captures the first sale at 3.30pm, when a woman bought two canvasses for half price. A half hour later, a New Zealand tourist also picked up two works from an elderly vendor manning the stall. The final sale, at 5.30pm, was the most fruitful. A Chicago man took home no less than four canvasses, having explained: “I just need something for the walls.” The day’s takings came to a grand total of £263.
Given the way his work has been widely counterfeited around the world, the prospective purchases could be forgiven for erring on the side of caution. The eagle-eyed, however, would have spotted a sign on the stall which suggested something was afoot. “This is not a photo opportunity,” it read.
With the secret now out, anyone dashing to Central Park in the hope of making a lucrative investment should perform a U-turn. By the time Banksy revealed news of the stall, it had closed, with the vendor making off with a clutch of the unsold items. On his website, he added: “Please note: This was a one-off. The stall will not be there again today.”
Each day in October, he is unveiling a new artwork in the city, including “elaborate graffiti, large scale street sculpture, video installation or substandard performance art.”
The works revealed so far include heart-shaped balloon graffiti on a wall in Brooklyn and graffiti of a dog urinating on a fire hydrant, with a cartoon bubble reading ‘You complete me’. Another highlight was entitled The Sirens of the Lambs, a cattle truck filled with stuffed animal toys which toured the city’s meatpacking district.
In a recent interview conducted via email with New York publication the Village Voice, Banksy - whose identity is still a secret - revealed why he had decamped to the city for a month.
He explained: “I know street art can feel increasingly like the marketing wing of an art career, so I wanted to make some art without the price tag attached. There is no gallery show or book or film. It’s pointless. Which hopefully means something.”