A collection of works by the enigmatic street artist Banksy are going on display at the Tauranga Art Gallery as part of the Paradox: Tauranga Street Art Festival.
The Oi YOU! Collection belongs to George Shaw and his wife, and is the largest collection of Banksy works in the southern hemisphere.
Shaw was introduced to Banksy’s work after buying a shirt featuring the artist’s stencils to a party in Bristol, Banksy’s hometown, where a friend told him more about the artist behind the stencils. Within a week of the party Shaw had purchased his first limited edition original Banksy print from Ebay.
The couple now own 22 limited edition original Banksy prints and a couple of original works on canvas. He is not sure what his collection is worth these days. The most expensive Banksy work, ‘Keep it spotless’ sold at Sotheby’s for $1.7million in 2008.
“Back in the day it was different. You could buy a Banksy print for 75 quid. No one would even contemplate ripping them off because it just wasn’t worth it. But now, things have started to get silly really, as far as prices are concerned.
Banksy set up an organisation called Pest Control and if you believe you have an official Banksy print, you can go to Pest Control and they’ll ask you to send all of the info associated with it and if it is a Banksy you will get an authentication certificate.”
Shaw and his wife also produce massive street art events, with exhibitions in Sydney, Adelaide, Nelson and Christchurch, where the ‘RISE’ show was the Canterbury Museum’s most-visited show in their history and won New Zealand’s Museum Show of the Year.
Oi YOU! is seriously passionate about street art, and all of the couple’s money goes into it, Shaw says.
They are keen to create “a platform for the great street artists of New Zealand to be seen and also to bring great street artists from across the world to New Zealand for Kiwis to feast their eyes on.”
One of the things that Shaw loves most about the street art scene is that it is inclusive and accessible, especially in the age of social media.
“If you are a young person with a passion for creativity but you don’t fit into the standard way of doing things - of going to art school or whatever it may be - you can create work, you can get out there, you can get busy, you can earn a name for yourself, a little bit like a band would traditionally.
“People get their recognition by gaining a following on social media, whether it’s Facebook or Instagram. And if that following gets big enough and their work is recognised as being good enough, then they get to participate in these shows that are happening around the world… it tends to happen through word of mouth and that’s the way that street art works and it makes it much more accessible as a result.”