MIAMI Feb 18 Three murals created on the sides
of buildings by an elusive British street artist known as
"Banksy" will be sold on Tuesday along with millions of dollars
in other works at a Miami auction being closely watched due to
the soaring value of street graffiti.
Fine Art Auctions Miami estimates "Kissing Coppers," a
black-and-white stencil of two British police officers kissing
in close embrace, is worth between $500,000 and $700,000. The
work originally appeared on the side of the Prince Albert Pub in
Brighton, England, in 2005.
The wall is one of several Banksy works removed from their
original location and sold to collectors. It will be auctioned
off with two more pieces - "Crazy Horse Car Door" and "Bandaged
Heart Balloon" - created during the artist's month-long "street
residency" in New York City last year. The auction will also
include a sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a Keith Haring
watercolor, "Roger in the Flowers."
Banksy, whose graffiti and stenciled paintings appear as
social commentary in public spaces and private property around
the world, emerged in Bristol, England, in the early 1990s.
Despite having worldwide notoriety and being featured in the
2010 Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop,"
the artist has kept his real name a secret.
Collectors over the past decade have increasingly sought the
often lewd, brightly colored street art painted, drawn or
sprayed on everything from metal gates to concrete walls.
"Young people want to have a message, a dialogue, and they
want a way to express themselves," said Frederic Thut, director
of Fine Art Auctions Miami.
The three pieces by Banksy are owned by a private collector
who wants to remain anonymous, said Thut, adding they were not
owned by Stephan Keszler, owner of a New York City gallery known
for dealing in works by Banksy.
Keszler in 2013 represented the owner of "Slave Labour," a
spray-paint image of a young boy kneeling at a sewing machine
with Union Jack bunting, which sold for $1.1 million, Keszler
"It's new, it's more fun, it's younger, it's more
democratic," said Keszler.
Critics say the artworks should not be removed from their
original locations, as it takes away from the artist's original
"The people who are buying this stuff, chopping it off
walls, and putting it in their homes don't realize they only
have a piece of the puzzle," said RJ Rushmore, who runs the
Philadelphia-based street art blog Vandalog.com.
The auction comes as Miami looks to bolster its image as a
global cultural hub. The annual Art Basel Miami Beach in early
December, the largest fair in North America, coincided with the
opening of Herzog & de Meuron-designed Perez Art Museum Miami on
the shores of Biscayne Bay.
Art Wynwood, a contemporary art fair held a short walk away
from Miami's fast-rising arts district, hosted more than 30,000
visitors over the long President's Day weekend, browsing works
by popular street artists Shepard Fairey and Stinkfish, as well
as traditional sculptors and painters, such as Fernando Botero
and Wifredo Lam.
The Miami art market suffered a black eye on Sunday when
police arrested a local artist accused of destroying a $1
million vase, part of an exhibit by Chinese dissident artist Ai
Weiwei at the Perez Art Museum.
Maximo Caminero told police he broke the vase to protest
that the museum "only displayed international artists,"
according to the police report.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)