Banksy donates artwork to Bristol boys club
British graffiti artist admits he painted Mobile Lovers and tells the youth club leader he can do what he likes with it
As a rule, the established art market still doesn't get on that well with graffiti - though some dedicated collectors, such as the late Martin Wong, worked up a great rapport with graff artists. You can see Wong's peerless collection at The Museum of the City of New York in a special exhibition at the moment.
Other, less scrupulous speculators simply chisel a piece off a work and hope to bring it to market. However, once you've jackhammered off what you believe is a valuable work, how are do you prove a certain artist created it? Conventional artists have certificates of authenticity and catalogue raisonnés, yet if a graffiti writer were to admit he or she painted a certain street work, it could lead to prosecution. This catch has stymied the efforts of many would-be dealers in Banksy’s work.
Nevertheless, the elusive British graffiti artist has just offered a rare admission of guilt to Dennis Stinchcombe, the leader of Bristol’s Broad Plain Boys' Club. In a letter addressed to Stinchcombe, Banksy acknowledges he painted the piece, dubbed Mobile Lovers, on a board attached to a doorway beside the club.
The letter begins: "Dear Dennis, I hope this finds you well. As you know I recently painted on a doorway near the club."
The youth leader removed the work from the wall – which is owned by the local council – hours after its appearance on 15 April; Stinchcombe says this was done to prevent vandalism, yet he also claims the piece was obviously a gift to the club, and that Banksy had come to clubs run by the leader in the past.
Since then, Stinchcombe and Bristol’s city council have disputed the work’s ownership, with the council eventually managing to put the piece on display at Bristol Museum. However, Stinchcombe had hoped the artwork might plug a funding gap for Broad Plain Boys' Club, which is in in financial difficulties.
Banksy's letter not only affirms the club’s ownership of the painting, but also asserts that Stinchcombe has Banksy’s “blessing to do what you feel is right with the piece.” Stinchcombe said: "I'm absolutely elated - words don't express how delighted I am. As soon as I read it and saw the signature I knew what it was."
With so much underhand speculation surrounding Banksy’s street works, it’s good to see some money going to a worthy cause. For a richer insight into the kind of works made outside of the gallery space, take a look at our book, Wild Art.