The tricky thing about writing about anything Banksy does is that, by his very nature, he makes absurd things happen. Sometimes that’s just by dint of being a deliberately weird public figure with a lot of mythology built up around him, but often it’s because he’s intentionally messing with people, including the press attempting to document his actions. So when we report today—courtesy of Vulture—that $15 million in the street artist’s work was seized by Belgian authorities this week and “driven away at midnight to an unidentified secure location,” please just mentally note that every sentence ends with an implied, “Unless, of course, Banksy is fucking with us.”
This story was originally reported in The Guardian, which notes that it’s part of the longer story of a “Banksy unauthorized” exhibit organized by the artist’s former manager, and which has been touring around the world without his permission. (Unless, of course, Banksy is fucking with us. You get it.) The exhibit was being hosted by Belgian nonprofit Strokar Inside (inside an abandoned supermarket, which, weird) and was seized after the organization basically asked the government to come take it all away, which, weird.
It all apparently boils down to a conflict, not between Banksy and former “manager” Steve Lazarides, who’s been touring the pieces without the anonymous artist’s permission—that would be too simple—but between Lazarides and a German go-between company that was apparently running the Berlin version of the event on his behalf. Said company, On Entertainment, allegedly then turned around and offered the Belgian nonprofit the chance to host the art in Brussels for a bit, shipping the pieces off without getting Lazarides’ permission to send over his bushel of unauthorized art. (U,OC,BIFWU.) When Lazarides found out, he sent his lawyers to yell at Strokar Inside, who, realizing that they had someone found themselves trapped in Banksy World, threw up their hands and asked the nice Belgian government to get all this shit off of their hands.
It’s not clear what’ll happen to the 58 pieces in the collection, which include a version of the artist’s famous balloon girl—a piece similar to the one from Banksy’s big shredder prank earlier this year. Meanwhile, Banksy himself has expressed mild annoyance at people being charged to see his art by Lazarides’ exhibit, although he also noted that “Not sure I’m the best person to complain about people putting up pictures without getting permission.”