The anonymous (well almost) British graffiti artist, Banksy, who has made a career of setting the art market on its ear hit the news again with this article in The Art Newspaper: Revealed: the eBay Banksy print fraud. The paper claims to have been tipped off by insiders into a scheme to sell fraudulent limited edition copies of Banksy’s work on eBay using shills to up the bidding in the process. Read the story, these fakes were selling for thousands of dollars.
Spray Can Rodeo Girl – Banksy
This guy is fascinating. Callen Bair, who blogs about art for the Conde Nast publication Portfolio has written about him. Here’s a quote from her initial Banksy post:
It seems ludicrous, then, that collectors are shelling out tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Banksy’s works at auction, even if they are painted versions of his designs as opposed to prints. (Pie face done in oil on canvas got $379,446 at Sotheby’s London in June.) Of course, Banksy agrees: After Sotheby’s made a (relative) killing off seven Banksys it put in a February auction of contemporary art, the artist made a new work that shows an auctioneer directing a lively salesroom accompanied by the caption "I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit."
For most artists who sell originals or prints, the idea of having their works sold at Sotheby’s is a pipe dream. And few, if any, of them would ever think of giving copies of their work away for free on their Web site with cheeky advice to wait until everyone was at lunch to run off copies on the color printer at work. All with the only request that the prints not be reproduced to be sold.
A lesson here for artists whose personality and style fit the bill is that being outrageous in an acceptable manner pays dividends. Though his success is meager in terms of fine art acceptance, Michael Godard’s outsize persona and his promotional activities at ArtExpo a couple of years ago helped propel him to becoming one of the most successful print artists of the last few years.
It’s doubtful neither Godard nor Banksy conceived their success would come as fast and careers go as far as they have in the time since they hit the scene. It’s hard to imagine someone having both an artistic creative bent and be a genius promotional art marketing strategist as well. Perhaps they do. Who would argue it when thinking of Andy Warhol? I’d say both found a way to tap a fertile vein of collector interest that surprised both of them with the response to what they were doing.
There is not much solace for the everyday artist toiling away to read stories of outsized fortune coming to artists who seem to break all the rules. If there is a lesson, it might be to not be afraid to think large, to bend the rules, to challenge authority, or to make waves when it fits with one’s passion and vision. Perhaps not to the degree of Banksy, but within what one is comfortable with and maybe a scoche more. Another lesson is that like the Grateful Dead and many other bands in their wake (pun intended) proved, artists can afford to freely give away their work in one manner and still manage to make money from it in other ways. If nothing else learning about Banksy ought to have you thinking about what you can do to shake up your marketing. We’d love to hear from you when you get to Sotheby’s!