They have been chipped out of walls by thieves and scrubbed off by zealous cleaners. Now a work by the mysterious street artist Banksy could be driven away – for an estimated £500,000. The design, on the side of a lorry trailer – which doubles as a family home for the current owners – is due to sell at auction.
Called Fragile Silence, it shows commandos landing stereo equipment on a beach.
The trailer’s owners, Maeve Neal and Nathan Welland, say Banksy has authenticated the work, which he completed before they drove the truck to the Glastonbury Festival in 1998.
And instead of them paying him, he gave them two free festival tickets for providing the ‘canvas.’
At the time Banksy, whose real name has never been confirmed, was little known. But since then he has gathered a celebrity fan base including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Ms Neal, 34, explained: ‘We have known Banksy for more than 12 years. He heard that we were travelling down to Glastonbury and asked if we would give over the sides of the truck as a work space. He wanted a large white canvas.’
The couple, based in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, make their living supplying circus tents but now hope the sale will allow them to buy a conventional home for their four children.
Ms Neal is resigned to losing the two-bedroom, refrigerated trailer, bought 11 years ago for £1,000. She said: ‘We had our fourth child, Neo, five months ago and the lorry is becoming a bit of a squeeze.
‘We’ve been travelling around the country for ten years providing festivals with tents. We’ve seen the price of Banksy’s work go up and up and we hope his generosity
can help us build our new home.
‘Banksy is a little mysterious but the man we know is someone who is really giving.’
The sale is being handled by Norfolk art dealer William Burroughs, who said: ‘The work is genuine.’
Last year, Banksy’s painting, Space Girl And Bird, sold for £288,000 and in January a wall displaying his work in Notting Hill, West London, fetched £208,000 online.
Follow the trailer’s fantastic journey at Banksy Back-in-the-Day
He was their mate, so he only charged them a couple of Glastonbury tickets for painting the old lorry they’d bought for £1,000 to travel to festivals.
Now the decorated trailer in which they enjoyed the alternative lifestyle in a quiet corner of Norfolk is expected to make £500,000 at auction, after it emerged it was painted by the mystery graffiti artist Banksy.
Before he became famous Banksy – whose real identity has never been revealed – began a mural on the side of the 10m artic owned by Nathan Wellard and Maeve Neale.
The couple, who toured festivals supplying circus tents, agreed to let him use the sides of their home as a giant canvas.
In 1998 the then unknown Banksy painted Fragile Silence, which shows commandos landing a sound system on a beach, when he met Mr Wellard and Ms Neale en route to Glastonbury.
He added to his work when their paths crossed at later festivals, and more recently during visits to Norfolk, after the couple settled at Northwold, near Downham Market.
With four young children, Mr Wellard and Ms Neale have outgrown their slightly unusual mobile home. So they are now dismantling it ready to be sold off in pieces, which they expect will raise more than enough to buy a more conventional abode.
The sale is being handled by art dealer William Burroughs, who was yesterday fielding calls on the couple’s behalf.
“It’s all about a different lifestyle, a similar lifestyle to Banksy,” he said. “It’s about art and graffiti, people who live in an alternative society. It’s about bringing these pieces to market, they’ve been in Norfolk for a long time
“They were driving around the country in it from 1998 to 2004, it was a working vehicle. These Banksys were like a travelling exhibition, they went to Scotland, they went to Guernsey, they were always on the move.
“Banksy painted it over a number of years, first in 1998 at Glastonbury, then he painted the other side in 1999 at the Lizard Festival, in Cornwall. Then he was in Norfolk for one or two events, which was the last time he worked on it.
“Each time he worked on it, he asked Maeve and Nathan if it was OK for him to paint the truck. It’s an incredible work of art, what a conversation piece.”
Earlier, Mr Wellard said: “He was a little-known graffiti artist at the time and he was doing it as a live graffiti show. On the first day, there were just a few squiggly lines, you couldn’t make out what it was.
“I had every intention of painting over it if I didn’t like it, but I love it.”
Panels from the rear of the trailer have already gone on display in a gallery in Birmingham, priced upwards of £100,000.
Earlier this year, a wall displaying a Banksy painting sold for more than £200,000. The reclusive artist – who is believed to be from Bristol – began by stencilling graffiti on buildings in the city.
His works usually carry a strong anti-war or anti-establishment message and while some sell for six figure sums, others have been destroyed by council anti-graffiti squads and Transport for London, which painted over a mural at a London tube station inspired by the Tarrantino film Pulp Fiction.
While Banksy’s art is usually highly public, his visits to Norfolk were hitherto not widely known. Art lovers must now be wondering what other pieces lie out there undiscovered.