An interview with man behind the “Stealing Banksy?” auction

April 18th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
The former site of the "Old School" piece by Banksy that is up for auction next week

The site in London where Banksy’s “Old School” piece, which is up for auction next week, was once located. Photo by eddiedangerous.

Back in February, there was an auction in Miami that included the sale of street pieces formally by Banksy. Shortly before that auction took place, Caroline Caldwell interviewed the auction house’s representative, a so-called “street art expert.” We decided that since the auction felt like a joke and the very claim of “street art expert” sounded like a joke, we didn’t want to ask serious questions, lest that might suggest that he was worth taking seriously. But we did see an opportunity to have a bit of fun at the expense of their “expert,” so Caroline interviewed him in a style befitting The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

Not everyone agreed with our strategy. A few people criticized us for missing a chance to ask hard-hitting questions about an important topic. While we don’t believe that the salesman we were interviewing would have said anything insightful about the sale he was promoting, we do agree that it would be great to ask thoughtful questions of someone who facilitates the sale of street pieces. Recently, we had that opportunity.

Next week in London, The Sincura Group will be holding a similar auction of street pieces formally by Banksy. That’s the same company that last year successfully sold the Banksy “Slave Labour” wall at auction for just over $1 million. They’ve titled their auction Stealing Banksy? and it will include approximately 18 works, at least 7 of which are street pieces formally by Banksy that have been removed from their original locations, some of them specifically removed for this sale.

The difference between Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house with the “street art expert,” and The Sincura Group is that The Sincura Group does not come across as a complete joke. The Sincura Group has publicly tried to address some of the logistical and ethical issues surrounding the sale of street pieces. By titling their auction Stealing Banksy? and calling it a “project exploring the social, legal and moral issues surrounding the sale of street art” rather than just an auction, they try to position themselves as observers to a phenomenon that they want to see debate about, rather than facilitators and promoters of the ethically questionable market for street pieces. They have released statements about their work, making what they do appear to be a somewhat transparent, thought-out and ethically sound process while acknowledging some criticisms like rational people. If you’re just a casual observer, they do an alright job looking like the good guys, a group of people willing to engage in thoughtful debate.

That’s why we decided to interview Tony Baxter, Director of The Sincura Group, and this time, we thought it was appropriate to ask real questions to challenge the way The Sincura Group bills themselves. Caroline wrote the initial draft of our questions, which we then edited and added to collaboratively. Because our time is limited by the fact that we are not a professional news outlet but rather full-time students, we decided to conduct the interview over email. Email is not the ideal format for something like this, but it’s better than no interview at all.

Frankly, RJ finds some of Mr. Baxter’s answers misleading, but he’ll save more of my thoughts on that for tomorrow, when we will publish a response to this interview on Vandalog (UPDATE: Here’s RJ’s response). In the mean time, here’s the interview…

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Category: Auctions, Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: ,

Results: Street works by Banksy, Kenny Scharf and more at auction

February 18th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
Do you have a bathroom in need of some "urban' decor? Look no further.

Do you have a bathroom in need of some “urban’ decor? Look no further. This piece failed to sell, so maybe it can still be yours. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore using photos from Fine Art Auction Miami and by Leyla Arsan.

Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house that almost sold Banksy’s “Slave Labour” and “Wet Dog” pieces in 2013, is back at trying to sell street pieces. This time though, it’s not just Banksy’s whose street art and murals that they’ve put on offer. In an auction that took place this evening, FAAM have included cut up segments of concrete and metal that were removed from the street and contain what were once works by Banksy, Faile, Kenny Scharf, Bambi, Aiko and Terror161/J.SON. I say that these chunks of the street include what were once street pieces by those artists because the pieces have been removed from the street, destroying the context of the work. Kind of selling a ripped apart corner of the Mona Lisa. In Bambi’s case, it appears that she has given permission for the work to be removed and sold, so maybe that’s still her artwork. J.SON was unaware of the sale of the piece of metal containing his former artwork, but I do not have comments from the other artists, though I find it highly unlikely that they approved of the removal of those wall segments or this auction. Yesterday, Caroline posted an interview with FAAM’s resident street art expert, and today we have the auction results…

Below, I’ve got coverage of the street pieces that were up for sale, but it wasn’t just street pieces for sale. If you want to see more highlights, I was live tweeting the auction, so you can read some of the other results on my twitter or here.

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Category: Art News, Auctions, Featured Posts, Photos | Tags: , , , , , ,

Interview with a “street art expert”

February 17th, 2014 | By | 6 Comments »
Banksy Bandaged

“Bandaged Heart Balloon”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) will be hosting an auction that includes pieces by BanksyFaileKenny Scharf, BambiAiko and Terror161/J.SON that have been pulled (sawed, ripped, unscrewed, hammered off, etc.) from the street and brought to the auction house in Miami. Two pieces from Banksy’s recent NYC residency “Better Out Than In” are up for auction, including a car door from the Crazy Horse installation, and the bandaged heart balloon. You can have a look at the full catalog here (warning: it’s a PDF) or go here to follow the auction live.

Some of you might be thinking “Hey, those were for the public to enjoy!” or “Why should an unaffiliated auction house profit from the work/legal risks of these artists?” Good questions. But consider this… Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a literal piece of New York City from the safety of their home?

Ethical qualms aside, FAAM contacted Vandalog with an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up: An interview with the auction house’s official “street art expert” Sebastien Laboureau of Moonstar Fine Art Advisors. Since many published authors and curators with extensive knowledge of street art and graffiti still don’t consider themselves experts, I decided to see what I could learn from a real street art expert…

Caroline Caldwell: At what point would a street artist be considered a ‘sell out’? If possible, provide examples.

Sebastien Laboureau, Street Art Expert: Art has a market, and street artists also sell their works, as long as artists stay true to their personal style and create from their hearts the concept does not apply. Recently many works from street artists sell at auctions, and in galleries because this art is contemporary and talks to a wide audience and public. Banksy is the leading street artist, and he sells hundreds of works everywhere in the world every year at increasing prices.

CC: The Banksy’s “Bandaged Heart Balloon” from her residency in New York City is a portion of the wall that was physically removed and transported to Miami. How do you suggest or imagine people display large pieces like this in their homes?

Expert: Street art is amazing in the way that there is no set medium, street artists can work on canvas, metal, walls, doors. The beauty of it is to keep it in its original medium, we find that collectors enjoy buying and displaying street art because it feels like the work is created in their home.

What "" might look like in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

What “Crazy Horse Car Door” might look in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

CC: How much of the art available in this auction was actually relocated from the street to the auction house?

Expert: Quite a few came directly from the streets, including two Banksy walls, a metal roll down gate by Kenny Scharf, and another large security gate by Lady Aiko & Terror 161. The great thing about these works is most of them were created in the street and will live a second life now. They will be preserved for eternity.

CC: If a street artists paints work on a canvas, should it be considered ‘street art’ or just ‘art’?

Expert: I do not feel the need to differentiate between the two, all is art, street art is art regardless medium it is created on.

CC: What is the difference between a ‘street art’ and a mural?

Expert: Street art is a style of painting and a mural is large scale work done on a building, one is genre and other is a medium.

"Kissing Coppers"

“Kissing Coppers”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Who was the first authentic street artist to refer to themselves as a “street artist”?

Expert: The reality is that street art has always been around us. Some say street art was born in the late 70’s in New York City through graffiti art in public places. Some called it vandalism, some are still calling it vandalism… THIS IS ART!

CC: Should street artists in New York have NYC at the end of their Instagram handle?

Expert: Street artists should have any handle they please, to show where they have come from or where they are working.  New York City is very active in street art, but Miami has also become a street art mecca, with so many murals painted over the past year with an incredible quality and concentration in the Wynwood District. Street art is everywhere, in the London suburbs, in Barcelona, Paris, everywhere! And even in museums now.

CC: Would it be advantageous for street artists to align their personal brands with current trends in urban wear?

Expert: Historically, street art has been linked to hip hop. Fashion has always been intertwined with art. There is no limitation into what can and should be done!

CC: Is illegal street art graffiti?

Expert: It is still illegal in many parts and areas of the world, but more and more artists have been granted areas where they can create their works. Art is above any law, as art is life! Art pertains to our everyday life, and everywhere I look when I see art I see beauty.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.40.00 PM

Lady Aiko & Terror 161 on a metal gate originally located on the street in Wynwood, Miami. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Should there be a different word for street artists who are female?

Expert: There are more and more female street artists. We have great examples at our auction including Bambi and Swoon. Swoon has a museum show set-up in the Brooklyn Museum in April. Kazilla is a very talented street artist from the Wynwood who will be showing works and has brought local street artists together for the exhibition. There are many others! Once again, it makes no difference! ART IS ART!

CC: How long do you need to do the street arts before you’re considered a street artist?

Expert: There is no lead-time. A street artist is an artist that happens to use the streets as their canvas, there is no school. Some artists are better than others, but once again, there is no diploma to become a street artist!

CC: What’s the best city to get blog coverage in?

Expert: Miami is now becoming the street art mecca! But street art is everywhere in the world now.

Photos courtesy of Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) and photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, featuring photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman

Category: Auctions, Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Banksy + 5: October 29th

October 29th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »
Banksy in a thrift store window. Photo by Allan Molho.

Banksy in a thrift store window. Photo by Allan Molho.

When Banksy announced today’s Better Out Than In piece this afternoon, people began running to a little thrift store on 23rd Street in the hope of scoring the deal of a lifetime. I would have run with them if I were in town. But luckily the thrift store was tipped off to what was about to happen. Banksy had just donated a “crude oil” painting. His crude oil series involves him taking old paintings, in this case one that he bought from this thrift store, and adding his own touches. Two early street artists, John Fekner and Peter Kennard, experimented with similar pieces long before Banksy, but Banksy has really pushed the idea and made it his own thanks to his habit of inserting his modified paintings in places where the unmodified paintings might normally hang.

This crude oil painting, titled The Banality of the Banality of Evil, features the addition of a nazi officer to the idyllic landscape. It’s in a thrift store that benefits Housing Works, a charity fighting “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.” Housing Works have put the painting for sale in an online auction ending in the evening on October 31st. As of this posting, the bidding has reached $157,200. If you’ve looking for a new Banksy and have $200,000 or so to drop, you can bid here.

More info and photos over at Gothamist.

Another view of the piece. Photo by carnagenyc.

Another view of the painting. Photo by carnagenyc.

Today’s + 5 includes work by Labrona, Ray Johnson Fan Club, Wakuda, Saki&Bitches and Dscreet:

Labrona. Photo by Labrona.

Labrona. Photo by Labrona.

Ray Johnson Fan Club. Photo by Ray Johnson Fan Club.

Ray Johnson Fan Club. Photo by Ray Johnson Fan Club.

Wakuda in Seattle. Photo by Dustin Condley.

Wakuda in Seattle. Photo by Dustin Condley.

Saki&Bitches. Photo by Amy S. Rovig.

Saki&Bitches in London. Photo by Amy S. Rovig.

Dscreet in London. Photo by Alex Ellison.

Dscreet in London. Photo by Alex Ellison.

Photos by Allan Molho, carnagenyc, Labrona, Ray Johnson Fan Club, Dustin Condley, Amy S. Rovig and Alex Ellison

Category: Auctions, Photos | Tags: , , , , , ,

Stik in the East Village and in ARTWALK NY 2013

October 23rd, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »
Stik in the East Village facing Tompkins Square Park

Stik in the East Village facing Tompkins Square Park

Early last month, UK-based Stik spent a few days in NYC and left one more variation of his signature character on East 9th Street in the East Village. This coming Tuesday, October 29, he is participating in ARTWALK NY 2013, a benefit auction for the Coalition for the Homeless. Piggyback, a woodcut print on Japanese paper, was fashioned during his recent visit to Japan.

On a huge canvas at the Dorian Grey Gallery on East 9th Street

On a huge canvas at the Dorian Grey Gallery on East 9th Street

    Piggyback, woodcut print on Japanese paper, to be auctioned at ARTWALK NY 2013.

Piggyback, woodcut print on Japanese paper, to be auctioned at ARTWALK NY 2013.

 Photo of Stik on East 9th Street by Tara Murray; inside Dorien Gray Gallery by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Piggyback print, courtesy of the artist

Category: Auctions, Photos | Tags: ,

Sunday link-o-rama

July 28th, 2013 | By | No Comments »
Jaz, drawing entirely with charcoal.

Jaz, drawing entirely with charcoal in Buenos Aires.

Had a quick holiday in New York City combined with a nasty cold to delay posting this link-o-rama, but I’m back so here we go…

  • Dave aka nolionsinengland has been a friend and also one of my favorite street art/graffiti photographers for many years now. I’m very excited to see that he’s now offering street art tours of London in addition to his street art photography workshops. There aren’t too many people who can take me on a graffiti or street art tour of London, but Dave has shown me around before and he still schools me every time we meet up. This guy knows his stuff, and regular reads of this site have seen his photos on here for years. I haven’t taken this tour of course, but from every experience I’ve had with Dave over the past 5 or so years, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
  • Another longtime friend whose work I’ve admired is Know Hope, so I’m overjoyed to see him getting some serious recognition in the UK with a solo show coming up at Lazarides Gallery’s Rathbone Place location. Like Os Gemeos, Know Hope make work that grabs me and sucks me in to his world, and that’s a rare and beautiful experience. The show opens August 2nd.
  • Banksy’s No Ball Games street piece in London has been removed from the wall and is due to be sold next year. The profits from the sale will be going to charity, but I’m curious if that means the profits for person who owns the wall, or if the group organizing the removal and sale are also forgoing any profits. The company that removed this wall is the same one that managed the sale of Banksy’s Slave Labour street piece earlier this year.
  • Very nice NSA-theme ad takeover.
  • Gold Peg and Malarky are showing together in Stoke on Trent in the UK on August 3rd. It’s not often that Gold Peg shows her work indoors, so this is a really special treat.
  • Faile are on the cover of the latest issue of Very Nearly Almost, so there will be launch events in both NYC and London. The NYC launch is July 31st at Reed Projects and the London launch will be 8th August at Lazarides.
  • This year’s Living Walls conference/festival line up has been announced. The festival (my personal favorite in the USA) will be August 14th-18th in Atlanta. Caroline and I will be there, as well Steve and Jaime of Brooklyn Street Art. I highly encourage you to make the trip out if at all possible. Artist painting this year include Jaz, Inti, Know Hope, Freddy Sam, Trek Matthews and many more. More info about the conference (including all the things planned besides the murals) here. Also, you can donate to the conference here.
  • Remi/Rough recently put together a book of sketches that you can read online. Most artists who have met me know that I’m always carrying around a blackbook, and that I love to collect sketches, so this project of Remi’s was a real joy for me. It’s really fascinating to see what’s going on behind the scenes with this work.
  • Caroline and I went to this show in Brooklyn on Saturday night. I was really impressed with EKG’s drawings. A few of them definitely reminded me of Rammellzee. Col’s screenprints on wood were also interesting as a change of pace for someone who I’ve always known as a master with spray can.
  • Have I missed something? These new Titifreak works for his upcoming show at Black Book Gallery look very different from the Titifreak I remember. Still great though. I hope I get a chance to see this show while I’m in Denver next month.
  • Surreal awesomeness from Dome.

Photo by Jaz

Category: Art News, Auctions, Books / Magazines, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend link-o-rama

May 17th, 2013 | By | No Comments »


Today I’m finishing my exams and packing up my dorm. Sunday, it’s off to London. Can’t wait. Here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with this week:

Photo courtesy of Trustocorp

Category: Art News, Auctions, Photos, Random, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Toe The Line for PS 132

March 18th, 2013 | By | No Comments »

Joe Iurato

Logan Hicks has organized an online auction to benefit the PTA at his son Sailor’s school, PS 132 in Brooklyn. Toe The Line includes contributions from Joe Iurato, Swoon,  Shepard Fairey, Chris Stain, Dabs and Myla, How and Nosm, Eric Haze, Faile, and others. Logan’s girlfriend and Sailor’s mother Kristen Zarcadoolas is the PTA president of PS 132, and they organized the auction after after yet another funding cut at the school.

“There is a lack of resources at every level within the public school system and I want to do all that I can to ensure that my son has a proper education,” says Hicks. “There is a moral responsibility to do everything possible to help support the public education.”

The auction went live just a few hours ago. You can see all the works and bid here.




Photos courtesy of Logan Hicks

Category: Auctions | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Banksy street piece auction update (also, Banksy not arrested)

February 25th, 2013 | By | No Comments »
The piece in question. Photo courtesy of Banksy.

The piece in question

Update 1: Wet Dog, another Banksy street piece which was up sale in the same auction as Slave Labour, was also withdrawn at the last minute. Wet Dog was recently shown in the controversial Banksy: Out of Context show in Miami last December, where it was reported that the piece was not for sale.

Update 2: Wow. Slave Labour wasn’t just withdrawn from the auction, it was withdrawn in the middle of the auction after there were already 3 bids for it! (Thanks to Wooster Collective for this tip)

Update 3: Here’s a statement from the auction house, Fine Art Auction Miami: “Although there are no legal issues whatsoever regarding the sale of lots 6 and 7 by Banksy, Fine Art Auctions Miami convinced its consignors to withdraw these lots from the auction and take back the power of authority of these works.” and a statement from the owner of Wet Dog, Stephan Keszler (who will not say whether he also owns or represents the owner of Slave Labour) “We pulled it because of the hype. We did not feel comfortable in this environment. But I think we are very happy that an auction has tried to get Banksy’s street works into auction. It’s a breakthrough.” (via)

The Banksy street piece shown above (named Slave Labour (Bunting Boy) by the auction house which was trying to sell it), which a few days ago we mentioned was up for sale at an auction house in Miami, did not end up selling at the auction yesterday as had been the plan. Instead, the piece was withdrawn from auction, there has been a public outcry to return the piece to its original site, and investigations by British police have begun into how the piece was removed from London and put up at auction in the first place.

The local outcry about the piece’s removal reached a particularly hilarious point when a member of the local government arranged a protest requesting that the piece, which presumably was painted illegally, be withdrawn from auction and returned to its original location. Sounds like they might be successful in that effort, but I expect that the piece would be quickly destroyed by haters and/or street art/graffiti purists if it were returned to the street at this point.

Even the FBI got involved, asking the British police to investigate the origins of the piece. It’s still not 100% clear whether or not the piece was removed from the street with the permission of the property owner, but the owner has so far refused to comment, so at this point I’m guessing that they saw a chance to make a few bucks and organized the removal themselves.

While we’re on the topic of Banksy, I’d like to discuss dispel two Banksy-related rumors that popped up elsewhere on the web last week as a result of a lack of fact-checking by journalists and bloggers.

The Haringey Independent has published two stories about what they call “a new ‘Banksy’” on the same street where the Slave Labour piece once was. The piece is a stenciled image of a rat holding a placard with the question “Why?” on it. The only hint in either article that the new stencil might not be by Banksy are the quotes, but there’s no real discussion and it’s basically assumed that the piece is legit. After even just a quick glance at the piece, I’m 99% certain that it was not done by Banksy, but was just an homage and comment on the removal of the real Banksy piece. The rat stencil is poorly cut, poorly sprayed, the font on the placard isn’t one of Banksy’s standard fonts, I don’t believe Banksy has done a 1-layer rat stencil since 2009, and (save for the Banksy versus Robbo events) I can’t think of any instances of Banksy doing a street piece which directly addresses a specific controversy of his career. Of course, the funny thing is that the property owners where this new rat is seem to think it’s a real Banksy, since the second article reports that the non-Banksy is now covered in a protective layer of plexiglass.

And then there’s the hoax story that Banksy was supposedly arrested in London last week. A press release posted to claimed that Banksy had been arrested. The news quickly spread on Reddit and Twitter. Although the press release was quickly removed from the site, UK Street Art has the full text available. Give the press release a read. Think about it for a second. Does it sound legit? Blogs such as Jezebel and Death and Taxes, and Clutter Magazine reported the story as fact. At least made clear that the release was basically an unconfirmed rumor. If those blogs wanted some hits, posting that press release without actually thinking about it was probably a good move. But it wasn’t too difficult to determine that the press release was a very likely hoax, even before it was removed from And the press release was a hoax. Betabeat has a good brief summary of how the hoax happened, some reasons why it was a hoax, and who was behind it (it seems that site was). Reddit and The Banksy Forum have more detailed discussions as to why the press release was clearly a hoax.

With Banksy, things are rarely 100% clear, which opens up the door for hoaxes (I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ve fallen for one or two before), but if we exercised a bit more caution, perhaps these kinds of hoaxes and misattributions wouldn’t be quite so common.

Photo courtesy of Banksy, aka lifted from his website

Category: Art News, Auctions, Featured Posts | Tags:

Weekend link-o-rama

February 23rd, 2013 | By | No Comments »


As I tweeted the other day, my mind is kinda stuck on how much I wish the Parra show at Jonathan Levine Gallery opened today and not on Saturday so that I could go see it. So while I’ve been distracted by that point, here’s some of what I almost missed this week:

  • KATSU’s April Fools prank is a bit early, but still pretty funny.
  • The Outsiders / Lazarides has some really nice prints by Ron English. They are variations on his Figment image, aka Andy Warhol wig and a skull.
  • Barry McGee, Chris Johanson and Laurie Reid are showing together at City College and SF starting today.
  • Here’s a new piece from the always-interesting 0331c, but if you don’t know 0331c’s work, here’s an introduction.
  • Nice video of Eine updating one of his walls in London from saying PRO PRO PRO to PROTAGONIST. Interesting comment about street art being a thing that “looked like it would offer what graffiti promised but didn’t deliver.”
  • Nychos x Jeff Soto = Yes!
  • New work from Isaac Cordal.
  • Woah. Nice work from How and Nosm in San Fransisco.
  • Jonathan Jones is up to his old tricks of dissing Banksy to get more hits for his column, and I’m biting. He writes, “Banksy, as an artist, stops existing when there is no news about him.” Even if that is the case, is that the end of the world? Does that relegate Banksy to “art-lite”? No. Banksy is one of the most talked-about artists in the world. I would bet that the same criticism was leveled against Warhol, who I believe Jones likes. Banksy’s manipulation of the media, playing it like a damn violin sometimes, is some of his greatest artwork of all. He manipulates the media to spread a message. The best example of this was probably him going to Bethlehem to paint on the separation wall because he knew that the media would cover it. He was able to play the media to draw attention to an issue that he felt strongly about. Banksy’s paintings are sometimes great and sometimes not. But his ability to make people fascinated with him and his paintings is just as much of an art, and that shouldn’t discredit him.

Photo by Luna Park

Category: Art News, Auctions, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Print Release, Random, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,