World Famous Graffiti Artist Sells Poorly in Central Park


Marketing is everything. Just ask the graffiti artist known only as Banksy. The spray painting activist infamous for his distinctive stenciled images and slogans left on public surfaces all over the world, may be unpopular with authorities.

But to celebrity buyers like singer Christina Aguilera and renowned auction houses like Sotheby’s, his work is worth tens or hundreds of thousands.

Still, on a recent trip to New York City, Banksy claims an unadvertised art sale in Central Park made him just $480 — even though each piece was authentic and signed.

See the video he posted to YouTube and his website below:

Banksy Sells Paintings for Starving Artist Prices

So what’s going on here?

Well, we could assume that Bansky was just laying low. After all, city officials had already made their feelings clear. A few days later, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg warned the artist against any further, er…impromptu exhibits, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.


But it’s more likely Bansky was trying to make a point. And it’s one even regular old law abiding entrepreneurs should probably pay heed to as well.

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn

First, the artist didn’t even bother to promote the sale. He not only failed to mention it ahead of time on his website. He made a point afterwards of telling fans the sale would not be repeated.

Failure to promote the first event pretty much guaranteed few, if any, of Banksy’s die hard fans, including celebrities and big auction houses, would be on hand. And by refusing  to repeat it, he even passed up the opportunity to capitalize on the buzz he had created.


Second, though Bansky did sign the paintings, few people who passed the art sale that day may have had any idea who the artist was.

Since the paintings were labeled at $60 a piece and peddled in Central Park, certain expectations about the value of the work were established with passersby.


Banksy was, no doubt, trying to make some kind of statement about celebrity in our culture or the difference between labels and actual value. But anyone who’s spent a little extra for an iPhone understands the principle. Market a product to the right customers who know and love your brand and your story and price are no longer the issue.

And by the way, watch out. That story and brand can also be exploited by others, if you’re not careful.

For example, a week after Banksy’s unpublicized sale, a New York-based artist set up a similar sale with Banksy look-alikes, reports CBC Radio — and sold out in under an hour!

Are you making sure your marketing efforts are reaching the right customers?

Images: Wikipedia


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

8 Reactions
  1. I have a feeling it’s likely to have been a social experiment on Banksy’s part. I think it’s more likely to be that than him not bothering to promote it. Him not promoting the sale was intentional; I suspect he knew what he was doing; he wanted to make a point, whatever that exact point might have been for him (you mentioned a statement about celebrity and culture).

    However, yes, there are lessons that can be gleaned from it.

  2. Hi ebele,
    I agree. The thing to remember — though I’m sure for Bansky’s street cred he’d prefer we didn’t — is that the artist has a thriving career selling his work in galleries as well…for very handsome sums! In one article, Bansky was quoted as saying that he liked to be spontaneous with his street art or it felt too much like marketing. But, spontaneous or not, he knows and we know that’s precisely what it is.

    • I’m sure he’s well and truly loaded. I think perhaps part of the spontaneity with the street art is to keep things fresh for him; it’s also exciting. I mean, as an observer, I’d like to wake up one day and see a work of art that wasn’t there before. The mystery behind it is like a crop circle, whether it’s indeed marketing to him or not.

  3. At least they could spell the dude’s name right.

  4. I think he thinks that he has a big enough name to actually made some sales even if the event goes unannounced. Well, guess what? People don’t really know him. But if he announced that, I am pretty sure his fans and their network will flock over to his sale therefore giving him more sales.

    • Aira: I think a lot of people know him. And a lot of people don’t. I’m not a fan, but I know of him due to the nature of his work.

      I really don’t think he was looking to make sales or that he cared how much he made either way. It feels like it was more of an experiment than anything else – he wanted to make a point. So in that sense, the he didn’t ‘sell poorly’, I feel.

  5. Should have made his cost sign red or yellow to attract people and get them worked up in there mind without them even knowing who he is just to get them to stop and look. From what i seen is plain black spray paint and white canvas next to pictures of color. To people who know the name Banksy would appreciate the art. To people that don’t would try and find it at target or wal mart. In my mind if you want people to have your art give it to them, you want people to buy your art sell the product.

  6. I course this article would look at this from a failed business standpoint. Banksy is all about commenting on culture. He was showing that it’s all about the brand, not the actual art. This is just like the video that went around of the famous violin player who dressed as a homeless man and performed in a subway. Almost no one stopped to listen.