Art Market

Banksy launched an online store for affordable editions of his work.

Christy Kuesel
Oct 17, 2019 3:53PM, via MyLondon

Banksy’s pop-up Gross Domestic Product storefront in London earlier this month. Photo by Steve Nimmons, via Flickr.

Banksy’s hotly anticipated online store is finally open, with the iconic street artist offering T-shirts, mugs, prints, and even tombstones at relatively affordable prices. The shop, called Gross Domestic Product, launched earlier this week, though shoppers’ requests to buy objects will be greenlit at random, based on each prospective buyer’s response to the prompt: “Why does art matter?”

Gross Domestic Product features some items typical of an artist looking to merchandise their work—custom shirts, a print inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat—while other objects would seem a bit out of the ordinary coming from any artist other than Banksy, like a baby mobile featuring 19 security cameras, or your very own tombstone, labeled “You Have Now Reached Your Destination.” (Neither the baby mobile nor the tombstone is available yet, according to the website, with the tombstone “currently still in the ground.”)

Prices for objects currently available on the site range from £10 ($13) for a mug to £850 ($1,100) for a bullet-proof vest adorned with the Union Jack (which may or may not be the same one worn by the rapper Stormzy when he performed at the Glastonbury music festival earlier this year). While that may be a lot to pay for a vest, it’s a far cry from the artist’s new auction record of $12.1 million, set at Sotheby’s in London earlier this month.

Many products are only available in a limited quantity, which is where the quasi-lottery system comes in. Purchasers can only try to buy one item, and successful applicants will be notified by email if they are chosen to buy a work. As for the existential art question, a random time period of requests will be selected and proceed to vetting by an impartial judge, who, according to the shop’s terms and conditions page, “is a professional stand up comedian.”

The online store follows a pop-up installation featuring some of the Gross Domestic Product goods in London’s Croydon neighborhood launched earlier this month and dismantled this week. Interested shoppers have until October 28th to register their request to purchase an object from Gross Domestic Product.

A small tab at the bottom of the shop’s webpage reading “BBay” suggests that Banksy may have plans to harness the thriving secondary market for his work. The BBay homepage professes it to be an “approved used Banksy dealership,” and “your first choice destination to trade in secondhand work by a third-rate artist.” Aside from his record-breaking Sotheby’s sale, the street artist has had a complicated relationship with auction houses, to say the least. His painting Girl with a Balloon (2006) famously shredded itself at another Sotheby’s auction. The allusions to a possible online marketplace follow Banky’s recent efforts to control the distribution, exhibition, and reproduction of his works via his authentication service, Pest Control.

Christy Kuesel