Street artist claims he created ‘Banksy artwork’ bought for £250,000
A street artist from Liverpool has claimed to be the real creator of a stencil of a rat attributed to Banksy after it was bought for £250,000 by a renowned dealer on the Channel 4 television show The Greatest Auction.
The artist, who goes by the name Silent Bill, and who has a history of making works inspired by Banksy, said it was well known within the local art scene that he had stencilled the piece in about 2013.
The artwork had nevertheless found its way on to Channel 4’s new show on Tuesday evening after being removed by persons unknown from a wall on Liverpool’s Chapel Street in the last year.
At the televised auction, doubts over attribution had been raised by experts but well known Banksy dealer Robin Barton went ahead to win a bidding war with a rival collector on the phone from Dubai. “In this instance, my reputation is on the line,” Barton had conceded.
Silent Bill, who draws in his spare time from his job at a homeless charity in Liverpool, accused all those involved in the trade of the piece of “greed”.
He said: “The sale of the piece is everything that’s wrong within the art world, greedy rich people who can afford trophy art pieces as tax incentives.
“Street art pieces are, as intended by its name, for the street. When Banksy comes to Liverpool and gifts the city a piece it’s for the people of the city, it’s not for concierge and lifestyle services to cut from walls.”
Barton did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “The provenance of the artwork was investigated, as is due process for auctions.
“The programme-makers made clear to the featured bidders and viewers the challenges of definitively authenticating an artwork of this kind, and heard from expert opinion on the matter.”
The art work claimed by Silent Bill was of a stencilled rat, a well-known Banksy character, alongside the words: “I never liked this Banksy”. It was one of a number that was included in a self-published book of Silent Bill’s art.
The piece had originally appeared below a larger street work attributed to Banksy of a first world war bi-plane whose exhaust fumes drew out a heart, known as the “Love plane”. That had emerged in 2004 but was removed in 2016 for its own protection after being defaced.
The wording of the drawing claimed by Silent Bill was in reference to a second Banksy piece of a rat painted on the wall of a former college catering school in Liverpool, accompanied by the words: “I never liked the Beatles.”
The street piece put on sale for The Greatest Auction programme was brought in by a sales representative named only as Justin, who said he believed but could not prove the art was a Banksy. It vastly exceeded its reserve price of £100,000.
Silent Bill said: “It’s well known within with the lower echelons of the street art scene that the Never liked this Banksy piece was my homage to Banksy, in reference to his Never liked the Beatles piece.
“Whilst I’m thinking ‘A fool and their money’, I’m also thinking the sale highlights the UK’s current inequality and austerity when paint on a wall has just sold for the cost that would house two homeless families.
“I think the seller should donate the money to worthwhile charities and the buyer should re-evaluate their art portfolio. PS I have a nice Warhol I did for sale.”
The not-for-profit organisation that certifies Banksy pieces rarely does so for street works rather than those made for commercial sale.
Barton, the buyer of the work, has a history of trading in such works removed from the streets. He told the Channel 4 show that he played a “cat and mouse” with Banksy.
He said: “He puts the works out on the street and I remove them and drag them around the world and try to sell them. I am a thief.”
Eddie Lock, a collector of modern art, had raised concerns that the wording was not in a typeface usually used by Banksy. Barton had said it was significant that there had been “no comment from anywhere else claiming authorship of it”.
“I got what I wanted and that was my limit,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gone one a penny over that so I got it and I am taking it home.”