March 4th, 2011

Graffiti artist Banksy’s plan to attend the Oscar ceremony in disguise was vetoed by the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  But that hasn’t stopped the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars which have been added to the value of his work.

The Bristol-born graffitist, whose real name is thought to be Robin Gunningham, has been on a publicity drive since he was nominated for Best Documentary Feature for his film Exit Through the Gift Shop. If you haven’t seen this doc, I highly recommend adding it to your Netflix queue. The movie delved into the often overlooked art of graffiti and the artists who promote themselves in guerrilla fashion. It’s also quite humorous.

Graffiti artworks appeared across Los Angeles, leading up to the Oscars. They included a boy with a machine gun firing crayons into a field of flowers, a drunk Mickey Mouse holding a cocktail and wrapping his arm around a model on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, and  Charlie Brown with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

The works impressed the Los Angeles Times, which opined that he was a welcome addition to the usual Oscar buzz. “If Academy officials are worried that Banksy might do something bizarre on Oscar night, our advice is not only to get over that but to invite him back next year as a presenter,” the newspaper declared.

In the month since the nominations were announced, Banksy’s art has already shown signs of a price bump. Analysis provided by the art-price monitor, artnet, of the ten most recent sales of Banksy works shows that prices were on average 25 per cent higher than the highest estimate put on the work by auction houses.

Sotheby’s in London sold Banksy’s “Heavy Weaponry,” an image of an elephant with a rocket on its back, for $123,375. The auction record for any of his works is a much larger piece entitled “Keep it Spotless,” a Damien Hirst spot painting defaced with the image of a chamber maid apparently lifting up the bottom of the canvas, which sold for dollars $ 1.87 million at Sotheby’s New York in February 2008.

The artist had his first brush with Hollywood in 2006 when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie expressed an interest in his work, but art experts believe that the Oscar coverage combined with canny control of the supply of his work will cause prices to rise again. There is a catch, however, for owners of Banksy works. They are worth little without a certificate of authenticity, but Pest Control, which describes itself as the “handling agency” for Banksy’s work, has refused to give certificates for works that it says were “not originally intended for resale,”  including street art and gifts.

Read more from the story, courtesy of the Australian Times.