Monday, February 10, 2020

How Banksy retains control

There is an absolutely fascinating article in the New York Times - Banksy Is a Control Freak. But He Can’t Control His Legacy - which unpicks the business model Banksy uses to remain in control of his brand.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND artists read it as it's a very useful way of demonstrating ways in which artists can retain control over the copyright of their own artwork if marketing and selling direct to the public.
Banksy’s rise and rise is the result of years of meticulous control of his message, his market and, most importantly, his mystique.
Below I've attempted to summarise what actions Banksy has taken to control the market for his artwork - including:
  • Pest Control
  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Bbay
It looks simpler than it is - and a lot of it is entirely to do with how the law works.


In summary, he has created a wonderful system for keeping scams and fraud under control
(i.e. avoiding the awful Andy Warhol problem)

Gross Domestic Product - the website and shop created to regulate rip-offs of Banksy's Trademark.

Sale of originals

Banksy has no gallery representing him. Instead, he sells NEW original works for million dollar multiples to selected private collectors.

These sales help fund his big projects - which keep his "name in the frame".

Trade Mark without Text

This is the formal documentation of his trademark.

Subsequently he was challenged in court - which led to various developments described below.

Pest Control - Verification and Regulation

Pest Control is the agency he set up in 2008 to avoid being scammed - and also to avoid buyers being scammed too!
Pest Control is a handling service acting on behalf of the artist BANKSY.We answer enquiries and determine whether he was responsible for making a certain piece of artwork and issue paperwork if this is the case. This process does not make a profit and has been set up to prevent innocent people from becoming victims of fraud.
It regulates all his output. It:
  • authenticates his prints - which helps prevent fakes. 
  • authenticates original works - and issues a Certificate complete with a fake £10 note with Princess Di's face on it - torn in half. One half stays with the Artwork/Collector - the other half stays with Pest Control.
Please be aware that because many Banksy pieces are created in an advanced state of intoxication the authentication process can be lengthy and challenging.
  • No credible Auction House or Art Gallery will now sell a Banksy without a Certificate of Authentication issued by the Pest Control.
  • Owners of works can also request to register a Change of Ownership - but only if the Certificate of Authentication is submitted first.
This process also means he can now keep track of who owns his work - and hence who might be interested in buying more of his work.  In effect he is creating
  • his own Catalogue Raisonne of his work
  • a complete record of provenance for his work; and
  • a register of buyers of his work - whom he can notify if
    • new works are for sale
    • old works are available for sale to existing collectors
Pest Control is now the sole point of sale for new work by Banksy
One of the interesting aspect of most Gallery sales is that an artist is often kept at arm's length from their buyers by the Gallery. This is in order to avoid the buyers and artists doing deals directly and cutting out the Gallery - as Banksy has done!

Plus Pest Control also takes Court Orders out against anybody or organisation which reproduced Banksy’s branded art i.e. his trademark. This happened last year in relation to an organisation in Italy and and associated exhibition.
Pest Control enforced its trademark rights over the Banksy name and his iconic pieces Girl with balloon and Flower thrower. It did so to stop the unauthorised merchandising, as well as the use of Banksy imagery in the promotional material produced by the exhibition's organisers. 

Gross Domestic Product - merchandising Banksy™ 

It's a bit complicated - but in order to stop the Italian court case contesting the Banksy trademark from being successful, he had to demonstrate that he was using it to sell merchandise - which is why a store named Gross Domestic Product opened in South London (see image near the top)



Your first choice destination to trade in secondhand work by a third-rate artist

Bbay is coming soon! It's suggested to be the approved used Banksy Dealership.

In other words items sold via Bbay will acquire a greater value than those ripped off Banksy via others copying his art. It's an attempt to control the secondary market and to limit copyright infringements.

IMO it attempts to resolve the problem of other people trying to make money off Banksy by copying his art.


A different sort of business model

In one fell swoop Banksy has identified a business model which allows all those artists who want to deal directly with their buyers to
  • quality assure authenticity and provenance; 
  • regulate any infringement of his trademark; and 
  • control sales of original art to genuine Banksy fans
  • provide a mechanism for Banksy buyers to resell their Banksy artworks in the future to that qualified group of art collectors - those who have already bought.
It's genius!
Who needs buyers when you're an artist whose work is very popular!


Copyright and Maintaining Anonymity

There's an additional issue for Banksy which he also controls - and that's knowledge of his identity.  Apparently he employs a lot of lawyers!
Banksy uses nondisclosure agreements and trademark law to maintain his anonymity and the singularity of his creative vision.
The thing is - to enforce a copyright claim, the copyright owner has to disclose their identity.

Banksy now has Pest Control to perform a lot of the functions he wants to control - but it can only o this on his behalf - in relation to a trademark but not copyright.

Pest Control can ONLY regulate in relation to copyright if it can demonstrate that Banksy - who must be identified by name - has assigned copyright to Pest Control. (see Banksy finally goes to court )

He also communicates with the press through one individual.

Companies House - the companies involved:

Promoting Publicity

His Instagram account (7.1 million followers) is used to promote the appearance of new work or to highlight work coming to auction.

He also uses YouTube to publicise his work - via the Banksyfilm channel
(My bet is that the tramp in the video is actually Banksy himself or one of his friends)

Previous posts about Banksy

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