Monday, 13 December 2010

Banksy - Choose Your Weapon

Where to start?  Perhaps a bit of back story on Banksy for those who aren't aware of who he is, and what he means to the scene.

Banksy is the pseudonym of a British graffiti artist, political activist and painter, whose identity is unconfirmed. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique. Such artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.

His work is sought after by collectors and celebrities and his documentary 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' was just shortlisted for an Oscar.
His work routinely sells for 6 figures.

So once a year Banksy releases a print.  Deemed reasonable by collectors (priced at £450) they are hugely sought after by the quite large contigent of fans who can't afford an original or canvas piece.  However, once they've sold out, on the secondary market they normally go for 4 to 10 times that price.  Getting a Banksy at face value is not easy.

The rumours started a month ago about the release, and the forums were speculating like crazy.  Let's fast forward to 8pm on Friday night.  I get an email (THANK YOU MATT!) from a friend on the boards in the US 'dude, you in line yet?'.  I had no idea what he was talking about and wrote back as much.  He then sent me a picture of 100 people in line at POW's SoHo pop-up store.  I downed my whiskey in a gulp, and ran to the tube to make my way to Soho.

I got to SoHo around 9pm and would reckon I was about 180 in line.  With no (official) information released about the print yet, it was unclear whether this would be good enough.  Regardless, it was a relatviely warm night, I went and bought some beer and settled in getting to know my neighbors in the queue.  

And then...sheer chaos.  At 10:30pm POW sends an email out to their subscribers.  'blah blah blah...8 different colours, 25 of each colour, on sale Saturday from our store in EAST LONDON!'  

You've never seen so many people move that fast.  People running through the streets of central london trying to buy cabs from others who were waiting.  People who hadn't run in years looking like Usain Bolt as they headed for the tubes.  I started a mad dash with two guys who were in back of me in line.  They had a car and I did a few calculations and thought I'd get their quickest with them.  

We jumped in the car and I reckon it took about 25 minutes to get to Shoreditch.  We parked about three blocks before POWs showroom and ran like crazy.  In a dead sprint we ran to the queue and when the dust settled, ended up being about 150th in line.  Result!

We made friends with the people around us and settled in for a long cold night.  

View of the queue from commercial road...not a lot of order and distinct lack of security/personel from POW

This is around where I was, around the corner from Commercial Road

Marc, and are friend in a tux who had come directly from a work Christmas party when he got the news

Those are some long cold hours on the street when you don't know if you're getting a Banksy.

Bundled up.

So, having come straight from work I wasn't prepared for the cold at all.  No sleeping bag, no long underwear, I hadn't even worn my scarf that day.  However, nervous that in the 10 minutes it would take for me to run home they'd pass out tickets and I'd miss out, I stayed the course.

Around every 15 minutes or so a couple guys in the queue would come around on counts (mostly folks from the back of the queue that were trying to gage whether they'd be inside the coveted 200 number) and we were consistently within 150.  With the line locked down, we lay down feeling fairly confident.  

The night from 2-6am was fairly uneventful save for the odd fight (two that i counted) or figuring out who was gonna walk across the street to get tea (which started the night at about 50p a cup and ended the night at a pound a cup...see, Banksy is good for the economy).

However, at about 6:30...our second bout of absolute bedlam.  

At this time a security guard/POW person showed up with tickets.  And the queue absolutely imploded.  People from the back running to the front, people at the front trying to fight them off.  And perhaps worst of all, CARLOADS of people pulling up and walking right up to the ticket dude and getting their tickets.  Musta be friends, or must have paid him to give them tickets.  It was terrible.

Once all the touts and queue jumpers were sorted out the fat bald security guy started making his way through the line.  I was nervous as hell, cracked out from being up all night, and just hoping me and the people I was with would be sorted out.  As he came closer to us (I was about 10 people away at this point) he got to number 170 and said 'that's it, that's the last number'.  


I can't believe I waited that bloody long for NOTHING.  I think I probably stood there for 5 minutes in shock before starting the long walk home...trying to think if there was any way to tell this story in a positive light and not make me look like an idiot for waiting all night just to catch pneumonia.

As I turned off commercial road I saw the three people that were sat behind me all night.  Really cool kids, I was disappointed for them as well.  However, when they saw me, they screamed at me to get into their taxi.  

'Guys, I'm over it, I'm just going to go back and go to sleep'
- 'C'mon Evan, only a couple more hours, get in the taxi'

So these guys had gone up to bald ugly fat security guard and he had told them that there were only 170 tickets being passed out 'HERE'.  Said with a leering tone it led my friends to beleive the last were being sold back at the Soho store.

So as we dashed across town at 7am we were clinging to hope.  And frankly, at that point I had nothing better to do then sleep so figured I may as well go with it.  In what was becoming a typical refrain the cab dropped us a few blocks from the store and we ran ran ran and got there.  We were about 15th in this new queue.

As the line grew (to about 60) hope was raised yet there was certainly no information.  One of the guys in the queue took the initiative and we numbered everyone's hand from 1-60 to make sure there were no queue jumpers.  At 9am, the first employee showed up and we went up to him.

'We're here, we will gladly go home, please just tell us if we can buy a print here'
- 'we have 60 prints for you here'

Absolute bedlam.  He passes out tickets and for the next few hours we all sat around telling stories, talking art, and really enjoying each others company.  It couldn't have been a more different vibe from the queue on commercial road.  While i'm sure some of the prints bought from this queue will be sold, I'd be surprised  if many were...these were fans.

When my number was eventually called (17) to go in and buy my print, I pumped my fist and walked to the store.  Looking back at the people that had literally survived the night and this ordeal I couldn't help thinking what a heady mix of luck, intuition, and perserverance had led us to get a print.

Now the prints are selling for 10x their value on ebay.  The money is attractive.  Some people will take it and buy a car, some people will take it to the casino, some people will reinvest it in art.  But mine will be hanging on my wall for a long time as the story behind this print makes it priceless.

Signed and numbered by the man himself.  Not bad having an edition of 25!

Banksy - Choose your weapon

Keith Harrings dog..


  1. Awesome story. Glad to see a true fan got one.

  2. well done dude!
    i'm so glad you got it in the end... and even more so that you decided to keep it :o)

  3. nice write up and congrats, good to see decent people get one amongst all the scumbags out for a quick buck!

  4. great story, so glad it worked out in the end!

  5. I was one of those from the cars that directly approached the chap from POW and got a ticket. We didnt know him or even pay him money. It probably helped that he (like us) was a Scouser, but in the end it seemed clear all Brits know that as a society we dont have the know-how or respect for queueing, therefore its only the foreigners who stand in the queue and as a result go home with nothing but a cuppa.

  6. ^ you're a brave man quoting anonymously on an art blog. and if you read it (guessing you just looked at pics cause you are a Scouser) you'll see i went home with a print. loser.

  7. really? had this been in nyc, anyone who jumped the line would of been allowed to get the print and then it would of been snatched from him....

    Good for you evan... what up scouser, you flipping? hit me up on if so...

    yall are so lucky i wasnt able to go or get the heads up... sooo lucky... i would of came home with every color and a lot of yall would of been crying about more than the cold...

  8. Typical fucking anonymous scouser - no wonder the rest of the country hates liverpool.....

  9. So, we sellin it, right?? :)

  10. Great story man glad ur happy with ur print . U owe me a beer ;) from bob

  11. I have the Khaki print if anyone is interested.....


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