Friday, 20 November 2009

The real value of art

In the same week that some of the brightest and best of Bristol’s urban artists came to north London to showcase their talent this autumn, BT contractors painted over one of the brightest and best pieces of urban art in the neighbourhood.

Crowds gathered on Upper Street, Islington, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive artist Banksy when Bristol’s Crazy Fools Gallery took over the Library (a bar, not a library) for a weekend exhibition. Neither Banksy nor his rumoured self-portrait, valued unviewed at £250,000, turned up. Instead we got ‘Portrait of an Artist’, which had a very fine old-fashioned, gold-plated frame enclosing a portrait of an artist (from behind and not very good) at his easel painting what looks like an alien escapee from a lava lamp. The price tag was still a quarter of a million.

Not far from Upper Street, but in a less salubrious part of town where art investors fear to tread, BT was responding to a ‘complaint about graffitti’ by painting over a portrait on one of its cable boxes of teenager Ben Kinsella, who was murdered at the spot in June 2008. The portrait (from the front and really rather good, even without a gold frame) was the tribute of an anonymous street artist and was much appreciated by Ben’s family and friends. They at least have a sense of the real value of art.

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