Banksy Mobile Lovers Get $670,000 Price Tag from Antiques Roadshow

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Banksy, Mobile Lovers (2014).
Courtesy Vision Invisible/Flickr.

A Banksy mural with an interesting back story could bring in over a half million dollars for a British boys club in dire need of funds.

Mobile Lovers, a work showing a man and woman seemingly locked in a passionate embrace, but actually gazing distractedly over each other's shoulders at their cell phones, their faces lit from the glow, was valued at $670,000 (£400,000) on the Antiques Roadshow TV program. The work was brought for appraisal by a Bristol-based youth club known as the Broad Plain Boys' Club. An added bonus, the club has a letter from the mysterious street artist himself, stating that the club can keep the work.

In April, shortly after Mobile Lovers was spotted on a wall in Bristol, it was taken down by the youth club with a crowbar. The club left a note indicating that they removed it "to prevent vandalism or damage being done," as artnet News reported. The move was controversial, sparking some criticism that it was holding the work "hostage." According to their note, "You are free to come and view, but a small donation will be asked for you." The letter from Banksy, and confirmation from Banksy's publicist Jo Brooks has seemingly quashed any question of ownership between the city of Bristol, where the artist resides, and the youth club.

In the Daily Mail, club leader Dennis Stinchcombe said he had received offers as high as $1.7 million (£1 million) for the work since the Banksy confirmation. Stinchombe said he was considering selling the work at auction but was concerned about "choosing an appropriate auctioneer and one which is respectful of the work." His hope is that any sale proceeds "settle our finances and secure our future over the next few years at least."

Stinchcombe had hoped to keep a low profile when he brought it to the BBC program being filmed at Ashton Court in Bristol last Thursday (May 29), but the large, distinctive work was spotted almost immediately, and crowds descended.

Banksy's auction record is for Keep It Spotless (2007), (a playful jab at Damien Hirst), made of household gloss and spray paint on canvas, that sold for $1.9 million at Sotheby's New York in 2008, soaring above expectations of $250,000–350,000. According to the artnet database, roughly 1,165 Banksy works have appeared at auction to date.