x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Required reading: Banksy

A mural by British street artist Banksy was removed from an auction, where it was expected to fetch between Dh1.8m-2.6m, with no explanation. How did graffiti become a serious, and expensive, art form?

Street life

A mural by the enigmatic British street artist Banksy - which was removed from the side of a shop in north London two weeks ago - was expected to fetch between between $500,000 $700,000 (Dh1.8m-2.6m) at an auction in Miami on Saturday. The sale was halted at the last minute, however, with no explanation given from the auction house.

The piece - known as Slave Labour - depicts a young boy using a sewing machine to stick union flag bunting. It was removed in mysterious circumstances, without the permission of the artist.

Other pieces by Banksy have sold for big money. In March last year, Girl and Balloon, a stencil drawing on the side of an Ikea cardboard box, sold for £73,250 (Dh408,000). So how did graffiti become a serious, and expensive, art form? Time to hit the books.

- For a comprehensive overview, turn to the excellent Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art. Here you'll read about the birth and evolution of the movement, from the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely's street sculpture, to the iconic 1980s graffiti of Keith Haring, to Shepard Fairey, who created the "Andre the Giant has a Posse" meme (Google it if you're not olde enough to remember), and later the Barack Obama "Hope" poster.

- It was in New York in the 1970s that street began its ascent to its current height. See Classic Hits: New York's Pioneering Subway Graffiti Writers to relive the early days of an artistic movement that swept the world.

- But the West has no preserve on innovative, inflammatory street art. Arabic Graffiti showcases street art from across the Middle East, including the work of Tunisia's El Seed, who last year painted verses about tolerance from the Qur'an on Jara Mosque in his hometown of Gabes (with the blessing of the mosque's imam).

- Today, though, Banksy is surely the most famous proponent of street art. Banksy: The Man Behind the Wallby Will Elsworth-Jones grapples with the question: who is Banksy? The answer, more or less, is a bloke from Bristol, who started doing graffiti in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Wall and Piece (Century, Dh84), created by the man himself, is the definitive work when it comes to his art: turn the pages and educate yourself on the Banksy ouevre, from Gorilla in a Pink Mask to Naked Man.