September 29, 2008 / 3:49 PM / 10 years ago

Contested art by graffiti star Banksy fail to sell

Policemen look at a mural by graffiti artist Banksy painted on the wall of a tunnel near Waterloo Station in London, June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Five works by cult graffiti artist Banksy failed to sell at a weekend auction after doubts were raised about their authenticity.

On its website, auctioneer Lyon & Turnbull said that the five top lots by Banksy with a combined estimate of 200-275,000 pounds ($360-495,000) and called “street works” because they were removed from their original urban settings, went unsold.

It was unclear whether their failure to find buyers was a result of the row over authenticity or reflected broader uncertainty in the contemporary art market caused by the financial crisis. Lyon & Turnbull were unavailable for comment.

Before Saturday’s London sale, the auctioneer said the five main Banksy’s on offer were genuine, even though the only authorized verification body had declined to confirm that they were by the hugely successful British artist.

Pest Control said it would not approve any street pieces removed from their original settings, partly to crack down on fakes and partly to protect the original concept.

Banksy made a name for himself painting stenciled satirical and political images in public spaces, always keeping his identity hidden.

His work became so valuable that several street pieces were salvaged, including a painting attributed to Banksy on a wall in London that fetched 208,100 pounds ($383,000) in an online sale. The cost of removing the wall and replacing it was not included.

The auction record for a Banksy is 288,000 pounds for “Space Girl and Bird.”

On its website, Pest Control said that since its creation in January, 89 street pieces and 137 screen prints attributed to Banksy have turned out to be false, potentially involving millions of pounds of losses for the buyers.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White

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