Someone brought this video to my attention today – Banksy has been in NYC, and I guess he set up a table of his paintings near Central Park and had an older gentleman man the table for him. The joke appears to be that these original pieces, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars each, were made available here to an unsuspecting public for only $60. When you watch the video, most people walk by with little recognition of the work – does that mean that Banksy is less world-famous than people think?
The event was documented on video and posted on Banksy’s website. It took several hours for the first artwork to be sold, to a lady who managed to negotiate a 50% discount for two small canvases. There were only two more buyers, and by 6 p.m. the stall was closed with total earnings of $420.
Is Banksy trying to prove that people are stupid or uncultured for not recognizing the opportunity to buy the work for only $60? Or is he mimicking the experiment done by acclaimed classical violinist Joshua Bell who sells out concert halls but played in the D.C. subway system unrecognized and only made $32 in tips?
I have two opinions as to why his work went largely unsold: one, he set up his stall on the edge of Central Park, in an area usually heavily-trafficked with tourists, who are probably more-interested in “New York scenes” as souvenirs than street art-styled canvases. If he had set up his stall in the Chelsea gallery district, where more art-world-savvy people are walking the streets, you can bet he would have had a different result. My second thought is actually the one that came to me first: if I saw a table with so-called “authentic, signed Banksys” for $60, I would have thought “yeah, right, someone cranked these out and forged them, and they think they can take me for a sucker.” Even if they were selling for $5,000 instead of $60, I’d still think they’re fake. So I’m not sure how valid this “experiment” by Banksy really is … what do you think?