After a five-month recess, Banksy is back at it with ten brilliant pieces in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, two adjacent towns on the eastern coast, not far from Norwich. The pieces went up around 6 August but were confirmed a week later, on 13 August.
The EU’s trademark court, EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), ruled against Banksy’s struggle to protect his iconic images from being reproduced on shoddy merchandise. The present case was about the Laugh Now image, which Banksy’s handling agent Pest Control Office (PCO) had registered as a trademark in November 2018. A year later, a UK-based greeting card company, Full Colour Black Limited, applied for the cancellation of the trademark. EUIPO has now ruled in favor of the greeting card company, and decided that the Laugh Now trademark is “invalid in its entirety.” In September 2020, EUIPO invalidated Love is in the Air (or, Flower Thrower) as a trademark. And there are more trademark disputes to come.
The main argument in the ruling is that a trademark holder must actively market and sell products with the trademark. EUIPO considers that Banksy and PCO haven’t done that: “From an examination of the evidence filed by both parties it would appear that, at the time of filing of the application for invalidity, the proprietor (or Banksy) had never actually marketed or sold any goods or services under the contested Trademark”.
EUIPO shows a clear lack of knowledge in one of the sections in the ruling. EUIPO alleges that Banksy, “for the most part paints graffiti on other people’s property rather than to paint it on canvases or his own property”. What about the 1000+ studio pieces, many of them canvases. Or, the printmaking, the art-shows, the pranks and the whole narrative?
After a 20-minute bidding duel, the hammer landed at GBP 14,400,000. With the Buyers Premium, the buyer has to cough up GBP 16,758,000 – a new auction record for a Banksy canvass. The seller is NHS and the Southampton University Hospital, after receiving the piece in donation by Banksy. According to the lot sheet from Christie’s: “The proceeds will be used to support the wellbeing of University Hospital Southampton staff and patients.”
The piece depicts Oscar Wilde escaping the Reading GAOL prison with his typewriter knot to the bedsheets. Oscar Wilde had been incarcerated in Reading GAOL prison after being convicted of gross indecency in 1895. Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labour.
The piece has not yet been confirmed by Banksy’s normal channels, but, it seems to be an authentic one.
There had been some buzz before the piece appeared on the Banksy website http://www.banksy.co.uk on 10 December around 17h. A few hours later it was published on the official instagram account, @banksy.
The Guardian commented the artwork a few hours later:
The owners of a house in Bristol have apparently pulled out of the sale of the property after a Banksy piece appeared on the wall. On Thursday, the anonymous street artist confirmed he was behind the artwork showing an older woman sneezing out her false teeth, which has appeared on a semi-detached house in steep Vale Street, Totterdown. The stencil mural, Aachoo!!”, had been covered up before its unveiling on Thursday morning. It shows a woman in a headscarf holding a handkerchief but dropping her walking stick and handbag as she loses her dentures while sneezing.
Vale Street is England’s steepest residential street – its 22-degree slope used during annual Easter Sunday egg-rolling competitions. ITV News West Country spoke to the owners of the house, which had a sold sign up outside, and were told they have pulled out of the sale. They were due to exchange contracts next week but the artwork could see the value of their house rocket.
Nicholas Makin, whose mother Aileen owns the property, said people had been climbing over the house to get a better look at the new piece. He told ITV News West Country that his mother was distressed by the attention and they will take time to consider what to do next.
Fred Loosmore, 28, a furniture maker who until recently rented a room in the house, told the PA Media news agency he had put a clear covering over it for protection. “We wanted to come up because people will deface it, and luckily we’ve got a workshop and a massive piece of acrylic we’ve got left over,” he said.
“When we lived here so many people would come, especially on bikes and stuff because they were trying to do the challenge up the hills. It’s a great spot. The artwork is so nice. It’s so relevant, isn’t it?”
Despite heavy promotion from Sotheby’s, Banksy’s “Show me the Monet” didn’t break the record set by Monkey Parliament a year ago. The hammer landed at 6.4 million GBP, and the buyer has to cough up 7,551,600 GBP, including the Buyers Premium and the 4% royalty to Banksy.
The piece first appeared on social media on 14 October. After a few days of speculations whether it was done by a local street artist, Banksy confirmed the piece as his on Saturday morning.
The work depicts a girl hula-hooping with a tyre. It seems like the tyre once was part of the slaughtered bike – lock chained at the lamp post beside her.
As always, there are many interpretations to be made. One goes like this: Even if you are suffering from the economy and the pandemic you can find happiness in the little things. Find new uses for obsolete materialism. A simple but powerful advice from stoicism?
According to local residents of Lenton talking to The Guardian, the bike appeared at the scene at the same time as the artwork:
“Surinder Kaur, 42, who runs the beauty salon next to the mural, said the bike had appeared at the same time as the mural. She said within hours the council had rushed to protect the piece by placing clear plastic sheeting over it. Vandals have spray-painted over the plastic two or three times already. Everyone is very excited and many, many people are coming to see the picture,” Kaur said. “Everyone was confused about whether it was real or not real but it’s an amazing picture, it’s amazing art.”
The market for Banksy’s prints and multiples has been very dynamic the last decade, with prices increasing 25 % per year on average. Not this year. According to the website https://www.banksy-value.com, prices for Banky’s prints have gone up 104 % since the beginning of 2020. The estimate is based on real results on the auctions in London and elsewhere. In 2020, well over 250 prints have been bought and sold between collectors at the big auction houses. Of special interest are the upcoming auctions at Christie’s “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t”, and Sotheby’s “Banksy”, with several iconic prints up for sale, such as Girl with Balloon, Christ with Shopping Bags, and Love is in the Air.
Another interesting example is the print Banksquiat, from a signed edition of 300, released at the Gross Domestic Product exhibition in October 2019. It was Banky’s first regular print release since 2010. One of the Banksquiat prints was put up for sale by a collector at Tate Ward Auctions in London in August and it sold for GBP 118,750 including Buyers Premium.
How can a print by Banksy sell for GBP 100,000 when a print by Picasso goes for GBP 2,000? Possible explanations:
First, the prints have been an essential part of Banksy’s “oeuvre”. The prints are more than reproductions of a motive – they are handprinted pieces of art in their own right. The idea behind making prints is to provide affordable artwork for a broader public. The irony is that the same print Banksy sold for 50 GBP at the initial release back in the early 2000s, is now being sold for more than 50,000 GBP on the secondary market.
The trust factor: The Picasso foundation doesn’t certify Picasso’s prints, they only care about the unique pieces. Banksy’s handling service, Pest Control Office, has created an almost fake-proof certification system for the prints, which has led to a high level of trust in the secondary market.
It’s also a question of limited supply and increasing demand. Picasso was enormously prolific and produced thousands and thousands of prints in different techniques and in large editions. Banksy has only printed 50 motives. If we count the different colourways for some of these motives such as the Soup Cans, the total is somewhere around 130 different motives, all printed in small editions. The total supply of certified Banksy prints is relatively small if we compare to other established artists – if we sum all of the editions made from the 130 different motives we will arrive at aprox 10.000 signed prints and aprox 20.000 unsigned prints, which are also authentic if they have a Certificate of Authenticity.
The increasing demand comes from the fact that Banksy is perceived as the most influential artists of our times. His printed motives are among the most iconic images around and therefore highly coveted by a growing base of collectors. Also, you not only get a screen print for your money, you get a part of an artistic narrative, unprecedented in the art-world.
There is especially one factor influencing both demand and supply: Longterm collectors have finally understood that they can buy a Banksy. According to initiated sources, almost all important art foundations are now trying to get hold of as many Banksy’s as possible. When long term collectors buy on the secondary market, they not only increase the demand, the pieces will “disappear” from the market, thus limiting supply further.
The Guardian published the exclusive story on 27 August:
The British street artist Banksy has financed a boat to rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from north Africa, the Guardian can reveal. The vessel, named Louise Michel after a French feminist anarchist, set off in secrecy on 18 August from the Spanish seaport of Burriana, near Valencia, and is now in the central Mediterranean where on Thursday it rescued 89 people in distress, including 14 women and four children. It is now looking for a safe seaport to disembark the passengers or to transfer them to a European coastguard vessel.
Banksy’s involvement in the rescue mission goes back to September 2019 when he sent an email to Pia Klemp, the former captain of several NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people over recent years.
“Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”
Klemp, who initially thought it was a joke, believes she was chosen by Banksy due to her political stance. “I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she told the Guardian.
She has made clear that Banksy’s involvement in the operations is limited to providing financial support. “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”
With a top speed of 27 knots, the Louise Michel would be able to “hopefully outrun the so-called Libyan coastguard before they get to boats with refugees and migrants and pull them back to the detention camps in Libya”, said Klemp.
Banksy’s take on the refugee crisis went for 2,235,000 GBP including buyer’s premium at Sotheby’s “Rembrandt to Richter” auction, which was more than double the initial estimate. The selling party was ABCD Bethlehem – a Palestinian charity, after receiving the piece as a donation from Banksy. The information sheet for the lot continues: “All proceeds will go towards building a new acute stroke unit and purchasing children’s rehabilitation equipment for BASR hospital in Bethlehem.”
The triptych has been on display at Walled Off Hotel since the opening in March 2017. Due to the corona situation, the hotel remains closed until further notice. The question is whether the hotel will open again or if the sale marks the beginning of the end for the iconic hotel. Hopefully not. See previous post: The Walled Off Hotel. Palestine, March 2017.