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Banksy Sold Piece By Piece

August 24, 2023

Graffiti of a woman in a green gingham dress and yellow rubber cloves on a white brick wall. The rest of the graffiti is covered by a tarp.

Valentine's Day Mascara by Banksy, partially covered (photo courtesy of Funk Dooby)

A British company is now offering fractional ownership of a Banksy work. Valentine’s Day Mascara first appeared on the wall of a house in Margate, a seaside town in Kent, this past Valentine’s Day. It shows a woman dressed like a typical 1950s housewife, including an apron, gingham dress, and rubber gloves, shoving a man into a refrigerator turned on its side. The work is meant as a commentary on violence against women, as seen by the woman’s swollen eye and a missing tooth. Even the name of the work alludes to this through a play on words, combining a common female beauty product with one of the most notorious violent criminal acts of the twentieth century. Other than the refrigerator, various other physical objects were part of the original work, including a frying pan and an overturned chair on the ground beside the wall. Art conservator Thomas Organ helped remove the wall segment containing the piece, putting it on display at Margate’s Dreamland amusement park. The plan is for the work to remain on display until June 2025.

The London-based company Showpiece offers fractional ownership of various works, including a series of Warhol prints and a first-edition copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Fractional art ownership is nothing new, with companies like Masterworks, Yieldstreet, Particle, and Artex offering pieces of various works online. Showpiece is working with Red8 Galleries, representing the house owners where Banksy created the work. Showpiece estimates Valentine’s Day Mascara is worth £6 million (or $7.6 million). Starting on August 22nd, the company is selling 27,000 shares for £120 each for partial ownership of Valentine’s Day Mascara. This is the first time anyone has applied fractional ownership to a Banksy work. Banksy has never expressly approved of selling his work in the past. Yet, that has not stopped some from going ahead and selling wall fragments for millions. It also seems like part of a cruel joke: a work created in a public place, where anyone could view it or comment on it, is now being claimed by another entity and sold back to the very public the work was meant for. Others, most recently graffiti artists in Scotland, have highlighted the issues that accompany placing value in street art only when it's by someone famous. Maybe that fact has not been lost on the people at Showpiece. So, possibly out of guilt or to distract people from this fact, Showpiece also announced that it would donate a portion of the sale proceeds to Refuge, Britain’s largest domestic abuse organization.