Peeling Back the Layers in Every Banksy Story

Banksy Girl with Flower

Melanie Ryzik’s New York Times piece revealing the sale of a Los Angeles gas station’s Banksy mural appeared in the paper this morning but was quickly followed by a blog post revealing the name of the seller and the reasons behind the sale. Banksy painted the mural with the owner’s permission in 2008 but the family sold the gas startion last year to Chevron:

“I said, ‘I’ll sell you the location but I’m going to take the Banksy,’” Mr. Rosenberg recalled. He worried that if he didn’t cut it out, it would be demolished or painted over. So he spent around $80,000 to remove “Flower Girl” and repair the wall. “It was almost like a family heirloom at that point,” he said.

Nonetheless, he decided to part with it. “I would love to be able to keep it, but it’s owned by me and my sister,” he said. “It’s a large piece, and I’m not an art collector, and I really don’t know what to do with the piece.”

Meanwhile, Ryzik’s original story contains an cautionary tale meant to illustrate the artist’s willingness to subvert his collectors’ desire to own his work. But others have suggested the work is now in a private collection, no doubt benefitting from the mystique the artist builds around his evanescent work:

 In 2011, he stenciled “This Looks a Bit Like an Elephant” on an oblong water tank on a cliff overlooking the Pacific between Santa Monica and Malibu, Calif., and posted a photo of it on his Web site. The site already had a resident artist: Tachowa Covington had lived in the tank, long abandoned, for seven years. He had kitted it out with furniture and electricity, according to a newspaper article in London in The Independent. He had mail delivered there, too.

But after Banksy added his slogan, the tank was quickly sold by the city to a design agency. Mr. Covington was homeless. When word reached Banksy, he gave Mr. Covington a year’s worth of money for an apartment and bills.

“He helped me so fast, I didn’t have to spend a single day more on the streets,” Mr. Covington told The Independent. “It was like a miracle.”

Later, when the design agency sought to sell the tank, Banksy refused to authenticate it, The Independent said. It ended up in a scrap heap.

Another Banksy Mural to Go from Wall to Auction (NYTimes)

Owner Who Plans to Sell a Banksy Mural Steps Forward (NYTimes)