After helping a man pick up paints that fell from his bag on a train in Cumbria, 14-year-old Ben Azarya was blessed with a signed painting by an artist he had never heard of. The man turned out to be Banksy, one of the most famous street artists of all time, and the painting Azarya received is said to be worth five figures.
According to the New York Daily News, Azarya helped the man who introduced himself as Robin Banks. "He opened his rucksack and had a gas mask and spray paints inside," the teenager said. "He got out a piece of paper and had colors marked on it of what he had been trying out and he dropped his colors." Banksy asked the Azarya if he knew who Robin Banks was, and when Azarya said he didn't, the street artist gave him the artwork, said that it would be worth around $30,000, and told him, "Have a good life, brother."
Azarya described Banksy as a white man in his late 40s with "scruffy clothes" and an old, fluffy hat. "He had a little jacket that didn't go over his arms and jeans with paint on. He looked really wacky and had blonde hair and blue eyes."
Bonhams Auction House has advised Azarya and his mother to have the work authenticated, and Azarya already has plans to buy a new phone when the painting is sold.
UPDATE: It looks like young Ben Azarya won't be getting that new phone after all. According to The Independent, there was another alleged run-in with "Robin Banks" at a Wild Zucchinis restaurant in Cumbria on Jan. 19, but Banksy's publicist Jo Brooks says he was not in the area on either of those occasions. "It isn’t true. I don’t know where it has come from, it is really strange," she said. Restaurant owner Manon Plouffe gave a description similar to that of Azarya, and she said that the man announced himself as a graffiti artist and was admiring the art on the walls of the establishment. He never returned despite an offer to have coffee the next day.
So if you are in or around Cumbria and meet a man named Robin Banks, he is an imposter.
[via NY Daily News]