09 March 2023

Band sell Banksy’s Grim Reaper piece after 13 years as ‘people need to see it’

09 March 2023

A band who were given a painting by Banksy more than a decade ago in return for changing their name have said they are finally selling the artwork because “people should be able to see it”.

Canvas artwork Brace Yourself!, which shares its name with the rock group, has gone on display in London ahead of a sale in the US later this month.

The work, which Julien’s Auctions values at an estimated 600,000-800,000 dollars (£504,906 – £673,208), has been in the rock group’s possession since 2010.

When the influential street artist made the canvas, which features a black and white Grim Reaper in a bumper car, he asked for the band – then called Exit Through The Gift Shop – to chose a new name due to copyright issues with his Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary of the same name.

After valuing the artwork with Sotheby’s at £200,000, the rockers stored the Banksy and have exhibited it at 2014’s Stealing Banksy and 2021’s Art of Banksy.

When asked how they were feeling about parting with the artwork, guitarist Darren Moore said: “I was kind of quite frustrated that it was so valuable … it did just kind of languish for a while in storage, hidden away from the world and so I was really happy when we finally started to exhibit.”

Fellow guitarist Mark Atkinson said: “I think for me, it’s the thing of even though we wouldn’t own it anymore, it’s still part of our story.”

He added they were getting to fulfil their “bucket list” by playing a gig in front of the painting at the auction in California, as it can be taken out of temperature controlled storage, which is a cost to the band.

Atkinson also said: “People should be able to see it … whether that’s (in) someone’s house or in a museum.

“So (the sale) wasn’t necessarily the cost driving it but it was a trigger because (after the exhibits) we were going to have to put it in storage and (continue to pay for) insurance.”

The sale is also about preserving the artwork as a “piece of history”, said singer Natalie Zalewska.

When asked if the band will be disappointed if a private collector buys the work, she added: “I think it will be shown again at some point even if that does happen, because he’s the biggest artist in the world. He’s so important.”

She also said the painting had given them “joy” and a lot of opportunities for “fun” and they wanted to say goodbye to it in a “cool way”.

“The journey has been a good one,” Moore also said over changing their name.

“Our first gig was in (drummer Simon Duncan’s) garden and now (we have played) in a big pub in Victoria called the Shakespeare (with) hundreds of people dancing.

“I guess it’s quite satisfying. I think we have improved and I guess, (we’re) more determined to keep playing.”

Martin Nolan, executive director/CFO at Julien’s Auctions, said the importance of the artwork rests in it being given to a five-piece cover band – which also includes guitarist Kevin Wilson – by Banksy as “you can’t say it’s a beautiful picture because it’s the Grim Reaper”.

The proceeds of the sale will go to the band with a large portion set aside for MusiCares, a music industry charity, which Mr Nolan said was an added “feel-good factor”.

Mr Nolan added: “(Banksy) wanted them to have (it) as a backdrop, but they were smart to realise this is something of value.

He also said: “We absolutely do expect it to sell for more than the estimate.”

Mr Nolan said “high net worth individuals” typically buy Banksy’s works but hoped that museums would be interested in Brace Yourself!

Brace Yourself! is being displayed in the window of the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus in London from March 9 to 15.

The auction will start on March 29, at 7pm PST (3am GMT) live at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills and online at julienslive.com.

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