Banksy’s “Red Hook Balloon” Fails to Sell at Art Miami

The Banksy mural that had been taken — wall and all — from the Red Hook building on which it was painted in October during the elusive street artist’s infamous New York City residency, “Better Out Than In,” and carted off to Miami for the art fairs, has not yet found a home. “We had some offers and there’ s a lot of interest,” said art dealer Stephan Keszler who put the work up for sale at his booth at Art Miami along with another work spray-painted on a car door (now removed). Though he say’s he’s talking to interested collectors, nothing has yet panned out.

The work is a signature aerosol stencil painting of a red, heart-shaped balloon marked up with Band-Aids, which, along with just about every one of the works the anonymous artist created during his month-long stint in the fall, was painted over almost immediately by other graffiti artists. That didn’t stop Keszler, who has galleries on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Southampton, from purchasing the work from the owner of the building on which the wall was painted.

Though Keszler declined to name a sale price for the work, he said that offers were welcome.

He has after all done this before. The art dealer has reclaimed the Banksy graffiti from a wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem and has taken on consignment street art from Los Angeles, New Orleans, and England. In the past Pest Control, the entity charged with authenticating Banksy’s works, has denounced the sale of Banksy’s graffiti by Keszler, and others, warning of the perils of selling unauthenticated works. They don’t authenticate such works, claiming that the artist’s wish is that they remain in situ. But Banksy has also divulged that the rule is in part due to his desire to avoid incriminating himself.

Keszler didn’t seem dismayed: “Pest Control never gives authentication for Banksy’s street art because [Banksy] would be admitting that he’s doing a crime.”

While lack of authentication may give some collectors cold feet, the Friday sale of “Flower Girl,” an unauthenticated Banksy mural, at Julien’s inaugural Street Art auction for over $200,000 would suggest that the market for such works is just fine.

“At least it’s dry and it’s not freezing,” said Keszler laughing. “So it’s good for the piece.”

— Rozalia Jovanovic (@ruschka)

(Photo: Ashton Cooper.)