Banksy: Why A Million-Dollar Artist’s Work Sold For $60


Branding is everything. It can make or break your business.

That’s why companies spend millions in cultivating strong brands that secure them a loyal following. If you think about what consumers need vs. want, the majority of purchases fall in the “wants” category. Those desires are influenced by fantastic branding campaigns evoking emotion, fears or even hate.

That’s why Banksy, a British graffiti street artist whose work has previously sold for over $1 million each, sold pieces for $60 at New York’s Central Park on Saturday. The UK based artist’s identity has been closely-guarded.

Passerbys perceived the artist’s work as cheap, because there was no fanfare around. In other words, no branding. Not that there was lack of information – Banksy’s month-long residency in New York has been well-documented by American media. But nobody knew the unassuming stall was selling original, signed Banksy canvasses, worth at least thousands of dollars at an auction. Without the media frenzy surrounding his other New York installations, it was easy to overlook the nondescript stall.

According to a video later posted on his website, the stall remained undisturbed in Central Park for nearly four hours before the first sale was made. A woman even bargained down two canvasses to $30 each. Why? Presumably because art sold on street corners is perceived of inferior quality than pieces sold at uptown art galleries.  In 2007, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt spent over $1 million on his work at a L.A. auction.

In his typically non-conformist way, Banksy illustrated how society is willing to pay a hefty price tag just for perceived value. Interestingly, his own brand value has increased steadily through his “guerrilla art.” Other antics in recent times include ‘Sirens of the Lambs’ where he sent a delivery truck full of stuffed toy animals to New York slaughterhouses.

The artist, at least, isn’t bothered by Saturday’s low offers.

“But there’s no way round it—commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist. We’re not supposed to be embraced in that way. When you look at how society rewards so many of the wrong people, it’s hard not to view financial reimbursement as a badge of self-serving mediocrity,” he said in an email interview with the Village Voice, last week. Even his decision to talk to The Voice was part of his brand – the newspaper is distributed for free on street corners.

The handful of customers who bought from Saturday’s stall – he raked in a total of $420 that day – are no doubt, laughing all the way to the bank.

Moral of the story: branding matters. Ignore it at your own peril. For his part, Banksy’s got his branding down pat. Have you?


About Author

%d bloggers like this: