April 19 (Bloomberg) — Nick Walker, an old spray-mate of fellow British street artist Banksy, sold 750,000 pounds ($1.5 million) of paintings and prints this week at the start of his first one-man show in the U.K., the gallery said yesterday.
All but two of 60 original Walker works on offer, many featuring his anarchical alter ego, “The Bowler-Hatted Vandal,” found buyers within hours at the Black Rat Gallery in Shoreditch, east London, gallery director Mike Snelle said in an interview. Prices at the exhibition, which started with a private view on April 17, ranged between 2,000 pounds and 35,000 pounds.
“I’m proper pleased,” said Walker in a telephone interview. “I couldn’t believe anything like this could have happened.” Walker, 39, said demand for his work had gone “pretty crazy” after Bonhams’s Urban Art auction in London in February. At that sale, his 2006 spray-paint-on-canvas “Moona Lisa,” showing La Giaconda exposing her bottom, sold for a record 54,000 pounds with fees, more than 10 times the upper estimate.
Walker said that he had got know Banksy in Bristol, western England, in the late 1990s when he was invited to be part of the “Walls on Fire” group of graffiti artists.
“We don’t talk too much now,” he said.
Two new Walker prints were issued online in editions of 150, priced at 450 pounds each. These sold out within seconds, said Snelle. The complete edition of a third new print, titled “Life’s 2 Short,” priced at 750 pounds, was reserved for the first 75 people in the line. Some people were photographed with numbered certificates to ensure they didn’t sell their place.
“We had at least 60 people camping out the night before to make sure they were at the front,” said Snelle.
“For a lot of people it’s all about being part of a memorable experience. It’s a bit like going to Glastonbury.”
Dale Clark, a property developer from Hoxton, east London, queued through the night to buy one of the prints and a 4,500- pound painting.
“This was the first art show I’ve been to,” Clark said in an interview. “It was manic. There were people everywhere, red dots everywhere. This kind of art is all about impulse and passion.”
For some it’s also about trying to make a quick profit. At least half a dozen “Life’s 2 Short” prints were being “flipped” on EBay Inc’s Web site priced up to 13,000 pounds. At the time of writing, the prints had bids of up to 2,272.22 pounds and none had been sold.
Snelle said that more than 500 people had crowded into the gallery for the private view. More than 20 of them had flown from the U.S. especially for the show, he said.
“People now realize that there’s more to street art than just Banksy,” said Snelle, who earlier in the week had laser- beamed Walker images on Big Ben and the Bank of England to promote the show.
Other street art aficionados remain to be convinced that Walker is the new Banksy.
“The incredible price tags were shocking when held up against the rather simplistic subject matter of the work,” said a user called Danvnuk on the street art discussion site, banksyforum. “It isn’t challenging, there’s no depth, but compared to someone like Banksy whose work always contains some wry observation, or poking fun at the human condition, it left me quite underwhelmed.”
The auction record for Banksy is the $1.9 million paid for the 2007 painting “Keep it Spotless” at Sotheby’s “Red” charity sale in New York in February, according to the saleroom result tracker Artnet.
The show runs though May 3. For information: click on http://www.blackratpress.co.uk/ or telephone +44-207-613-7200.