October 9, 2013

Signs of the Post-Street Art Age...

Photo by carnagenyc via Instigram

When we saw the first pictures of Banksy's outdoor piece on October 1st in NYC, we immediately noticed the sign. Appearing to be held on the wall by mere screws, the "Graffiti Is A Crime" placard seemed to invite it's own removal. There was no doubt in our minds that it would be stolen only to reappear on eBay with an exorbitant price tag.  As it turns out we were correct about it being stolen, but we never anticipated the rest.

via @sozism on Instigram

Sometime between the evening of October 1st and the morning of October 2nd the original sign was removed.  Also, during this same time period Smart Crew replaced the missing signage with their own version reading: "Street Art Is A Crime". Instagram users posted pictures of both versions, some unaware that the sign had even been replaced. The Smart Crew sign lasted until the morning when all signage was removed and the piece was buffed.

via @signofbanksy on Instagram

Then the sign, (or at least someone purporting to have the sign and possessing marginal photoshop editing skills), popped up unexpectedly on Instagram under the account name @signofbanksy. If you believe the photos, the sign spent some time hanging out in various locations around New York.  It even went to view another Banksy site. And then the sign dropped out of sight again...

...until today when this popped up on someone's Bigcartel site. Yes it's true, you can now order a first rate bootleg of the purloined Banksy placard direct from the UK. You gotta give props for the speed of this knockoff venture! After all, it's only been a week since the original went missing. If you're wondering whether there really is market for this kind of thing, based on the volume of reproduction Banksy merchandise currently available for purchase on the internet the answer is a resounding yes.

And speaking of the internet, why hasn't the original sign popped up for sale there? Traditionally eBay is the sale platform of choice for purloined street pieces.  Is it because:
a) the possessor of the sign knows that it is potentially salable through an auction house for tens of thousands of dollars.
b) the possessor fears that any public display or sale of the piece would alert the property owner of the wall from which it was removed who will immediately challenge the ownership and the sale of the sign.
c) the possessor has realized that what he has done is not simply the removal of a piece of street art,  but a felonious theft of a high value piece of art for which he may be subject to arrest.
d) the possessor of the sign is Banksy himself who has been participating in the destruction of the street pieces to prevent them from falling into the hands of speculators and collectors.

This is far from over.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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