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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