In a characteristically bizarre experiment, On Oct 13 the world famous anonymous street artist Banksy hosted an unannounced, one-day sale of his works, pricing them at just $60 apiece.
In the statement on his website the following day, Banksy unveiled a video that showed an elderly man (not Banksy) selling the signed paintings at an unmarked Central Park kiosk. At the end of the day, the man had netted $420 dollars, while unsuspecting buyers had walked away with art that could potentially net millions on the open market.
Whether Banksy was making a statement about authenticity, art, or his own fame remains unclear. However, the elusive artist made sure to deflate the hopes of any treasure seekers assuring that the kiosk sale was a “one-off event.”
The Central Park stunt is the latest in a string of social experiments performed by the British artist. It’s not an entirely novel one, however, as Banksy is by no means the first world-class artist to offer their work on the streets incognito.
In 2007 virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell busked on the Washington Metro for 43 minutes, and earned a paltry $32 from passersby. The Washington Post (WPO) , which set up the Bell stunt, asked the question “in a banal setting in an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”
The Post seemed content that the lack of interest in Bell’s busking answered that question with a resounding “no,” as when he would stop playing in between pieces there was “no applause, no acknowledgment.”
Banksy's experiment echoes the Bell experiment in both its results and his tone assessing the ignorance of the beauty of his work. In the video Banksy points out that his work wasn’t “acknowledged” with a sale until 3:30 PM that day, and then only after the buyer had “negotiated a 50 percent discount.”
But regardless of the impetus behind his one-day fire sale, Banksy just made some strangers very rich indeed.
Watch the video below: