Today Sotheby’s in London was set to once again putting Banksy's market to the test, offering a 2004 sculpture by the artist titled 'The Drinker'. In the
meantime an artist who goes by the name of Link claimed that the work was stolen from him, fifteen years after he removed the statue from the
street and took it to his home. The auction had initially rejected the allegation, but an hour before the auction was set to start, the auction house
withdrew the piece from the sale, commenting: “The work has been withdrawn in agreement with the consignor.”
Banksy, The Drinker, 2004. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
The bronze sculpture references Rodin’s 'The Thinker', the famous statue of a man lost in thought. The man in Banksy’s sculpture has a similar although more slumped posture, with a traffic cone on his head. The piece was originally left in a small square off Shaftesbury Avenue in London in 2004.
'The Drinker' entered Sotheby's sale updated with a new cone and the auction house detailed the work's strange history in the lot's description. The provenance listed the artist and Steven Lazarides, Banksy’s former art dealer, as previous owners before the sculpture changed hands again in 2014. Sotheby’s catalogue noted the work was "mysteriously retrieved from Art Kieda’s [Link's art group] lock-up in an anonymous heist which left [Link] with nothing but the abandoned traffic cone from atop The Drinker’s head.” This could suggest Banksy's team may have been involved in the matter.
The Drinker in its original location in London.
Link claimed he took the statue after he found it abandoned on the street: “I did the right thing, and reported it to the police,” he said, detailing the documents and case numbers he has kept over more than a decade. “I do not understand how Sothebys can sell this when I have such proof.” He reportedly asked Banksy for a ransom, and the artist was willing to give “£2 towards a can of petrol” to set the sculpture on fire. Link also mentioned he did not challenge the sale as he could not afford lawyer fees. "The police should be looking into this,” he said although the police commented there is no active criminal investigation into the matter.
Banksy's work has been performing extremely well at auction recently. Perhaps most notably when last month, a new auction record was set for the artist, when his 2009 painting 'Devolved Parliament' sold for £9,9 mil. at Sotheby’s in London. 'The Drinker' was estimated to sell for £750,000 to £1 million.
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Till next time,
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