NYC Facade-Cleaning Trashes 6-Figure Banksy Art

By Terry Ward / GrumpyVisualArtist

The secretive globe-trotting graffiti artist known as Banksy is famed for stencil-based spray paint designs --and lately for ever-escalating art prices. Studio-made Banksys on canvas can sell for over a million dollars. So high has his market value gone, that at least one enterprising London property owner removed a Banksy-decorated section of exterior wall in order to auction off the art [ Huffington Post ].

After removal, the London artwork --officially titled Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)-- next appeared in public as the catalogue cover piece for the high-end Saturday 23 February 2013 “MODERN, CONTEMPORARY AND STREET ART” sale at Fine Art Auctions Miami --with an auction estimate of $500,000-$700,000. The wall fragment was listed as Lot #6 in the Fine Art Auctions Miami catalogue [ www ]. Lot #7 was another Banksy --estimate: $600,000-$800,000. Apparently a carefully-removed Banksy “unique street work” (as the auction house calls it) commands a premium price. Learning about this might be a crashing disappointment for a New York City property owner who had an unsightly dent in a building's masonry fully patched-up and painted-over --along with the graffiti embellishments someone had added to the dent. Granted, after the repairs, the wall looks clean and tidy. You'd never know there was a big ugly scuff mark or a graffiti piece there. Some wag had added an eye and some legs to the dent in order to transform it into a cartoon horse. A stencil-painted child-cowboy in silhouette finished-off the picture.

The Smoking Gun reported [ www ] that the trashed spray paint image was a Banksy rumored to have been titled Bronco Boy. Of course any creation by any of the many stencil-using copycat graffitists marking up cities worldwide could be mistaken for a Banksy at first glance. However, the famed street artist himself seems to authenticate the art: Banksy's own official website shows the picture. Apparently it was a 2008 Banksy creation. A photo of it [ www ] appears on page three of the “Outside” section of

Some detective work can lead one to the Google Maps "Street View" images, taken in June of 2011, showing the same wall all clean [ www ]. The location is near The Body Shop and across from the Applebee’s in East Harlem (not the Bronx as the artist’s website’s filename indicates). Google Maps’ pictures match details in Banksy’s photo: the jagged seam along the top, the round vent hole (partly covered during the façade restoration), the abrupt sidewalk slope, the neighbor’s brownstone façade and distinctive cast iron fence pattern. The clincher: the property's house number is visible both on Banksy's web and on Google's close-up images --they match.

Google Maps shows that one tenant in the de-Banksyed building was called Envy Nails. The property owners might indeed have cause for envy when the auction house’s final hammer prices make their way to the press. The Smoking Gun said its attempts to reach someone at the property management company by phone went unanswered.

(Image composite by Terry Ward / GrumpyVisualArtist with third-party images by Google Maps and used under journalistic/commentary "Fair Use" terms.)