A mural created on the side of a building by the elusive British street artist known as "Banksy" sold for $575,000 Tuesday, along with dozens of other graffiti-style works at a Miami auction being closely watched due to the soaring value of street art.
Kissing Coppers, a black-and-white stencil of two British police officers kissing in close embrace, was purchased by an anonymous telephone buyer, Fine Art Auctions Miami said. 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 was auctioned along with two more Banksy pieces — Bandaged Heart Balloon and Crazy Horse Car Door — created during the artist's month-long "street residency" in New York City last year.
Those two pieces, priced at $200,000 and $100,000 respectively, failed to reach their asking price. The Banksy piece that did sell had a winning bid of $480,000 plus $95,000 in fees. It had been expected to fetch between $500,000 and $700,000.
The auction of 54 works also included a sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which sold for $180,000, 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. The art form has made Miami’s Wynwood Arts District an international destination, thanks to murals commissioned by the late Tony Goldman and his family, who created Wynwood Walls, an outdoor musuem.
"The potential of this market is incredible. I was at the first sales of pop art and it was exactly the same people coming from nowhere and buying immediately," he added.
The three pieces by Banksy were offered 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 said.
"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 intent.
"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.