The British artist Banksy has made a name for himself as a graffiti artist who's stealthily created provocative pieces around the world.
Now the L.A.-based auction house Julien's has announced that it's auctioning off one of his works — a piece called "Flower Girl" — which once graced the wall of a gas station on the corner of Beverly Boulevard and La Brea. Julien's estimates the piece will bring in a whole lot of cash.
"We have a conservative presale estimate of $150,000-300,000 on the piece, that's just a general starting point," said Michael Doyle, consignment director at Julien's. "There have been similar pieces that have sold for over a million dollars in recent history, so we by no means are setting a ceiling on that."
Banksy first contacted the gas station owner to ask permission to do the mural. The owner give him the green light, and overnight the "Flower Girl" appeared on the side of the building.
"He somehow managed to make the surveillance cameras go blank for the whole evening and to this day the gas station owner has no idea how he did it," said Doyle.
The painting was completed in 2008, before Banksy had become as internationally popular as he is today. Over time, the gas station owner became concerned that someone would vandalize the work, so he covered it with a board for protection.
Finally, he decided it was time to put the piece in a private owner's hands. But that was no easy feat.
"The gas station owner decided to cut out a 9-by-8-foot portion of the gas station wall and encase it in a metal casing, then used a high-power forklift to transport it to our location," said Doyle.
This will be the first time a Banksy piece will be sold at auction; A piece titled "Slave Labour" was sold privately back in June. Still, some critics argue that, as street art, Banksy's works are not meant to be sold and displayed like traditional pieces. Doyle disagrees.
"This piece was done in 2008, almost 5 years ago, and it remained open and viewable to the public for several years," said Doyle. "It's at the point where we feel like it's best to be transferred to someone's private hands and they can do as they please with it."
As for the money raised by the sale of the piece, Banksy won't see a dime. It will all go to the gas station owner.
"The piece was done on private property which the gas station owner owns, so he'll be the one that received the funds for it," said Doyle.