In Splashy Art Miami Display, Banksy Dealers Flout Palestinian Mural Controversy

Two art dealers who were criticized last year for airlifting a pair of Banksy wall murals from sites in Palestine to far posher locales in Southampton and Manhattan confronted the controversy head on at this year’s Art Miami. In a mini-exhibition titled “Banksy: Out of Context,” the dealers, Robin Barton from London’s Bankrobber Gallery and New York dealer Stephen Keszler, installed the works behind velvet ropes and under dramatic spotlights, but emphasized that the paintings are no longer for sale.

Instead, the 2002 mural “Out of Bed Rat,” originally priced at $400,000, appeared alongside wall text explaining that the presentation was meant to stimulate discussion about the role of context in street art. It “demonstrate[s] the value and necessity of safeguarding these site-specific pieces that faced certain destruction at their original locations.” The dealers have said that they salvaged the Palestinian works  from empty lots after two locals carved them from the walls and attempted to sell them on eBay.

From his booth at the fair, Barton, who was also selling a number of early Banksy prints, said, “There’s two sides of the controversy. Either you agree that everything should stay exactly where Banksy puts it or you see that they were going to destroy it anyway. They need to be seen.”

Barton added that he and Keszler are in talks with a “big” Miami museum about acquiring the works.

— Rachel Corbett

This story also appears on Market Watch, ARTINFO’s market news blog.

(Photos: “Out of Bed Rat,” top, and “Wet Dog,” both attributed to Banksy; Bankrobber Gallery’s Robin Barton at his Art Miami booth)