Steve Lazarides is selling some of his former client and friend’s work at Bonhams including the well known Flower Thrower print. Listen to our interview with Lazarides from last Summer, above.
A collection of 30 Banksy prints and two sculptures owned by the English gallery owner, Steve Lazarides, formerly the agent of the celebrated graffiti artist, is to be auctioned as part of Founded 1793, the contemporary art auction at Bonhams New Bond Street taking place on 28 January 2015.
Included among the collection of iconic prints are Flower Thrower (2003), Rude Copper(2002), and Christ With Shopping Bags (2004), each estimated at £8,000-12,000. Along with the prints, two of Banksy’s Watchtower sculptures, one a collaboration with Kelsey Brookes, will be offered. Each is estimated at £12,000-18,000. Bonhams, which first sold a work by Banksy in 2003, pioneered the market for the artist’s work at auction. His work is collected by celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Jack Nicholson, Gwen Stefani, Robbie Williams, Damien Hirst, Sir Alex Ferguson and Bono. Banksy’s work was also prominent in the highly acclaimed exhibition of street culture, Art in the Streets, at Museum of Contemporary Art, (MoCA) in San Francisco in 2011.
Like Banksy, Lazarides grew up in Bristol. His first jobs were processing chickens and mixing concrete before making the leap into professional photography. It was in that capacity, while working on a photoshoot for Sleazenation, a monthly fashion and lifestyle magazine, that Lazarides first met the artist. The two became friends, and Lazarides soon began selling Banksy’s work – initially, ‘out of the boot of my car in a pub car-park.’
Lazarides recalls the irreverence of this period fondly: ‘In the early years I spent my days driving my clapped-out old Escort MK 2 delivering the little Banksy books to shops all over London, and stuffing handfuls of stickers into print tubes. Those early days were chaotic and fearless.’ This auction, Lazarides says, offers ‘a wormhole back to 2003.’
And it was not long before the explosion of interest in urban art and in Banksy particularly. As well as the quality and humour of the work, the artist’s high-profile stunts – including releasing live rats in a gallery – gained him notoriety and massive exposure. Prints by Banksy soon commanded very significant prices indeed.
This meteoric rise made Lazarides a commercial success, and the gallerist recognises the significance of those formative years: ‘It was one of the best periods of my life, and without him there would be no Lazarides Gallery. The commercial side of things started with screenprints, in part to pay for the exhibitions.’
But Banksy can’t take all the credit. Lazarides was a pioneer of graffiti’s transition from street to gallery, launching, among many other contributions, the website, Pictures on Walls, to promote the work. His innovation led Andrew Childs of The Financial Times to comment: ‘It there had been one individual responsible for whipping up and sustaining the fever around urban art, it was Steve Lazarides.’
Graffiti art, for Lazarides, has always been about shared experience, and print provides the perfect medium. ‘I still believe in the power of the print medium,’ he says, ‘and love the way it serves as a gateway for many people to access the world of art collecting. For many people, the only way of owning a piece of art by their favourite artists is via a print.’
So it was a natural decision to offer some at auction: ‘I have decided to open up my personal vault and let go some of my collection, and I hope whoever lands up with them derives as much enjoyment from them as I have had.’