It was supposed to be so easy
The story was simple, but charming: a woman, working at a thrift store raising money for homeless people with AIDs sells a painting for $50. Weeks later, the painting is re-donated, having been edited somewhat by controversial street artist Banksy.
Banksy's Meat Truck in New York attracts attention
Everyone saw it as the perfect way to end a brilliant residency. Enigmatic graffiti man (or woman?) Banksy has been in the Big Apple, making waves, selling art for hardly anything and filling meat trucks with soft toys. The Banality of the Banality of Evil – the painting’s name – was a step too far.
Whoever decided to blow over $600k on the painting had a change of heart when they decided the charity – The Housing Works – made up the whole thing. They were in on it the whole time, according to the unnamed buyer, so the deal was called off.
"We are still looking into why he defaulted, and we reserve the right to sort of see what we're going to do with it," Matthew Bernardo, the chief development officer of Housing Work told TPM. "But we were really looking to close the transaction so we could put the money to use."
Wil Emling, a Minneapolis-based broker who bid on the painting on behalf of the private buyer told the Guardian: "It's all part of the hype, part of the marketing machine that is Banksy. The whole back-story to this painting is completely false. There are just too many questions.”
When the painting was sold, Housing Works spokeswoman, Rebecca Edmonson said: "This marks the highest revenue in the history for any one item sold by Housing Works in any of its 12 thrift shops or online. It means a lot that the artist is using his time in New York to give back to the very community that has been captivated by his every move."
But it wasn’t just the back story that put the buyer off, even if it was - in fairness to the charity - the sort of thing Banksy would do. Shill bidding was suspected, meaning whoever was in pole position to but the painting thinks someone upped the price illegally.
"It's not uncommon for the price of a lot to go up in the final minutes, even by hundreds of dollars, but I do question that this painting jumped by several hundred thousand dollars. The increments were no longer logical," said Emling. "People were just jumping in, and it looked to me like they were deliberately trying to get the price up."
So Housing Works look to be missing out on a large sum of money, and Banksy’s residency ends on a sour note. The Banality of The Banality of Evil is still available, too, if you’ve got $600-odd thousand.