Banksy identity auction removed from EBay -- was it a hoax?


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An auction on EBay that offered to reveal the identity of the elusive British street artist known as Banksy to the highest bidder has been removed from the website just one day before it was scheduled to close. But was the whole thing just a hoax? Knowing how Banksy operates, the answer is a definite maybe.

As of Monday night, a number of people had placed bids, with the highest coming in at just under $1 million. The seller claimed to have written proof of Bansky’s identity based on tax records from art sales. On Tuesday, however, the auction had been deleted from EBay, with the site saying: ‘This listing ... has been removed, or this item is not available.’


Banksy is famous for his stenciled graffiti work that has popped up on outdoor walls and buildings throughout the world. Despite his anonymous persona, the artist has apparently given interviews to reporters, though his exact identity remains a secret.

Given the artist’s penchant for pulling fast ones on the public, the recently deleted EBay auction was widely suspected of being a prank, possibly by Banksy himself. Meanwhile, similar auctions claiming to have the identity of the artist have been popping up on EBay, though it remains unclear if the sellers are connected.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the deleted auction was an elaborate prank executed in the name of publicity. Consider, if you will, the following:

Exit Through the Gift Shop’: The DVD for the documentary film featuring Banksy hit U.S. stores last month. Could the auction have been a sophisticated ruse to boost sales and rentals of the DVD? It should be noted that many people believe the film itself to be a feature-length prank of enigmatic provenance -- in other words, a quintessentially Banksy-ian work of art. Oscars / BAFTA: It’s officially awards season and ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ is seen as a strong contender in the documentary categories and more. It’s possible that the (faux) auction was a stunt to keep Banksy in the news in hopes of earning nominations. On Tuesday, the movie (and Banksy) received a BAFTA nomination for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer. Mission accomplished?

Credit controversy: As recently reported in the New York Times, a Swiss filmmaker named Joachim Levy is demanding directorial credit for ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop.’ Levy worked with French artist Thierry Guetta on the movie-within-the-movie, titled ‘Life Remote Control,’ which Banksy is believed to have refashioned (sort of) into ‘Exit.’ The levels of meta-ness are dizzying. Was the EBay auction a diversionary tactic? Or maybe the credit controversy is just a prank as well?



Banksy’s Oscar chances looking strong for ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’

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Graffiti and street art show to take over MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in 2011

-- David Ng