Danielle Rahm neatly limns the contradictions and confounding path of Banksy and his street art. What she doesn’t explain is the basis for the estimate on Banksy’s net worth. How can the assets of an anonymous person be estimated? Are the celebrity sites that claim he has $20m in assets counting his auction sales, his movie profits or his earlier gallery sales?
Now granted, Banksy is not in need of money, unlike many of the street artists he identifies with. He is estimated to have a net worth upwards of $20 million, and recently discussed the internal struggle of profiting from his artwork with the Village Voice, stating that “commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist.” Many call him a sell-out, however, if it was not for his early (and very profitable) successes, he would not have the financial freedom to use his artwork and notoriety to get his point of view across.[…]
So, what do you do if you wake up tomorrow morning, the lucky “owner” of Banksy’s latest creation? Congratulations, you are now in the moral dilemma of a lifetime. The mural could sell for well over a million dollars at auction, should you wish to cash in on it. Do you break out the excavator and call Sotheby’s? Do you preserve it for public enjoyment with security guards, metal gates or Plexiglas? Or, you could let it go organically the way of most street art – destroyed by a fresh coat of paint, another street artist with his own vision, or a city employee wielding a buffer.
Banksy has said, “Graffiti art has a hard enough life as it is, before you add hedge-fund managers wanting to chop it out and hang it over the fireplace. For the sake of keeping all street art where it belongs, I’d encourage people not to buy anything by anybody, unless it was created for sale in the first place.”
Just for the record, and not because anyone needs to defend hedge fund managers, but the ones who are chopping out street art works are the owners of the buildings he chooses, not the buyers. And so far, we don’t know of many hedgies who have pushed street art or Banksy as the stars of their collections.