When Banksy began his "Better Out Than In" residency in New York a year and a week ago, various art dealers hustled to secure the works almost as fast as the artist could create them. Stencils and parts of installations vanished from the streets within hours, and we learned later that a couple pieces (Balloon Heart and Crazy Horse Car Door) would be sold at Art Miami by gallery owner Stephan Keszler.
Art Miami came and went, and Keszler was unable to secure offers for the pieces, but he wasn't alone. According to Artnet, others who have attempted to sell Banksy's work recently have come up short. One theory is that the work is grossly overpriced. "It gave the impression that Banksy’s market was weak, but people were just asking too much for them," said Joseph Gross Gallery director Casey Gleghorn to the New York Post. "People were getting greedy." Another theory is that the hype has died down and people just don't want the artist's work. A Brooklyn family tried to give their Geisha piece to the Brooklyn Museum for the cost of removing it from their wall, but that never happened because the museum, according to the family, "decided it wasn't worth it."
There have been a few recent sales that suggest that maybe buyers only want works with meaningful (and legit) acquisition stories. The Mobile Lovers piece that Banksy gifted to the boys' club in Bristol sold for $688,000, and the two pieces that a woman bought in Central Park from Banksy's "dealer" for $60 sold for £125,000. Does this mean that the art world has suddenly grown a conscience when it comes to the ethics of buying street art? Probably not, but it does appear to be more selective and less spendthrift.