Banksy street art 'Kissing Coppers' up for auction in Miami

Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:32pm EST
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Three murals created on the sides of buildings by an elusive British street artist known as "Banksy" will be sold on Tuesday along with millions of dollars in other works at a Miami auction being closely watched due to the soaring value of street graffiti.

Fine Art Auctions Miami estimates "Kissing Coppers," a black-and-white stencil of two British police officers kissing in close embrace, is worth between $500,000 and $700,000. The work originally appeared on the side of the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, England, in 2005.

The wall is one of several Banksy works removed from their original location and sold to collectors. It will be auctioned off with two more pieces - "Crazy Horse Car Door" and "Bandaged Heart Balloon" - created during the artist's month-long "street residency" in New York City last year. The auction will also include a sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a Keith Haring watercolor, "Roger in the Flowers."

Banksy, whose graffiti and stenciled paintings appear as social commentary in public spaces and private property around the world, emerged in Bristol, England, in the early 1990s.

Despite having worldwide notoriety and being featured in the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," the artist has kept his real name a secret.

Collectors over the past decade have increasingly sought the often lewd, brightly colored street art painted, drawn or sprayed on everything from metal gates to concrete walls.

"Young people want to have a message, a dialogue, and they want a way to express themselves," said Frederic Thut, director of Fine Art Auctions Miami.

The three pieces by Banksy are owned by a private collector who wants to remain anonymous, said Thut, adding they were not owned by Stephan Keszler, owner of a New York City gallery known for dealing in works by Banksy.   Continued...

Paintings titled "Crazy Horse Car Door" and in the background, "Kissing Coppers", by the British street artist Banksy, are seen on display at LMNT Gallery in Miami, Florida February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Zachary Fagenson