A mural created on the side of a building by the elusive British street artist Banksy has sold for US$575,000, and dozens of other graffiti-style works at a Miami auction were closely watched due to the soaring value of street art.
Kissing Coppers, a black-and-white stencil of two British police officers kissing in close embrace, was bought by an anonymous telephone buyer, Fine Art Auctions Miami said. The work originally appeared on the side of the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, England, in 2005.
The wall is one of several Banksy works removed from their original location and sold to collectors. It was auctioned along with two more Banksy pieces - Bandaged Heart Balloon and Crazy Horse Car Door - created during the artist's month-long "street residency" in New York City last year.
Those two pieces, priced at US$200,000 and US$100,000, failed to reach their asking price. The Banksy piece that did sell had a winning bid of US$480,000 plus US$95,000 in fees. It had been expected to fetch between US$500,000 and US$700,000.
Banksy, whose graffiti and stenciled paintings appear as social commentary in public spaces and private property around the world, emerged in Bristol in the early 1990s.
Despite having worldwide notoriety and being featured in the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, the artist has kept his real name a secret.
Graffiti collectors are increasingly seeking the often lewd, brightly coloured street art painted, drawn or sprayed on everything from metal gates to concrete walls.
"Young people want to have a message, a dialogue, and they want a way to express themselves," said Frederic Thut, director of Fine Art Auctions Miami.
"The potential of this market is incredible. I was at the first sales of pop art and it was exactly the same people coming from nowhere and buying immediately."
Critics say the artworks should not be removed from their original locations as it takes away from the artist's original intent.
"The people who are buying this stuff, chopping it off walls, and putting it in their homes don't realise they only have a piece of the puzzle," said RJ Rushmore, of the street art blog Vandalog.com