By Andi Yu
What would you do if you accidentally bought a $60 piece of art, actually worth $40,000?
That’s the situation facing some lucky shoppers who earlier this week bought what they thought were Banksy knock-offs but which actually turned out to be original pieces.
The renegade British street artist whose true identity remains a mystery is in New York at the moment and pulled this stunt as part of his “Better Out Than In” exhibition.
A video of the experiment shows an old man sitting near NY’s Central Park in an unremarkable art stall full of Banksy’s most recognisable works. A few people finally made purchases and one even haggled for a 50% discount.
Plenty of passers-by did not recognise the artwork, let alone see it as valuable. They unknowingly walked past tens of thousands of dollars.
What exactly was Banksy trying to say? Was he poking fun at the fine art world? Like, haha, you put my work at these crazy prices but it’s all an illusion because look, heaps of people don’t even think it’s worth $60!
Or was he mocking is own art form, street art?
One online publication Village Voice, managed to interview him via email. This is supposedly a quote of his (I can’t trust anything 100% when it comes to Banksy):
“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’s no gallery show or book or film. It’s pointless. Which hopefully means something.”
Indeed street art has moved from the gritty, underground art scene to the mainstream.
Many street artists have gone from being restless kids painting illegally at night to being highly paid professionals with gallery showings and commissioned walls.
One Melbourne graffiti artist ‘CDH‘, whom I interviewed a while ago, says Banksy may be running into a bit of an identity crisis. CDH, who also keeps his real name a secret, said Banksy is now the establishment himself, he’s the centre-point of popular art.
But the world famous artist’s work barely sold in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan, art-literate cities.
Perhaps the social experiment this week was Banksy’s effort to put himself, and his art, back on to the fringe.