BANKSY Art Investigation

Fake BANKSY Art Exposed

Deception manifests in many ways and the art world is no exception.  This leads us to the case of a recently acquired limited edition print entitled “Pulp Fiction” by the world-famous street artist BANKSY. For those of you who do not know who BANKSY is, I encourage you to GOOGLE him.  BANKSY, is one of my top ten favorite artists of all time yet I will probably never own an original BANKSY as they are priced well outside the average consumer’s budget. In short, he is one of the most famous, yet anonymous, street artists in the world whose original art pieces can sell for over $10 million dollars. His limited-edition pieces can sell anywhere from $50,000 – $150,000.  They are so rare, I’ve never seen an original BANKSY with my own eyes. So, when a limited edition “Pulp Fiction” showed up at my door and the gallery strongly implied it was authentic, I got really excited! I wanted it to be real!

Banksy Pulp Fiction

A BANKSY “Pulp Fiction” limited edition print recently sold $166,509 plus buyer’s fees at Tate Ward Auctions at a By Collectors for Collectors event. The gallery, whom for legal reasons we will not identify by name, strongly implied this print was the authentic limited-edition print from the Tate Ward auction without admitting or denying its authenticity. In the deception detection realm this is a “non-denial statement” and is usually a red flag. As a professional lie spotter, it was nearly enough for me to determine the print was a fake. However, since they were “implying” it was real and not denying it was fake, I inquired further to validate my suspicions. I asked the gallery for the Certificate of Authenticity (COA). The response received was “Unfortunately it didn’t come with a COA but all you need is the TATE embossment.” Even as novice art enthusiast, I know this statement to be false. Authentic BANKSY art needs the COA from Pest Control. This is now a “cluster” of deceptive indicators and trusting my deception detection skills, sadly, I was confident that the print was a fake.

The BANKSY print the gallery claimed was authentic.

However, our motto is “Trust but Verify” so that is exactly what I did.  To validate the authenticity, I submitted the piece to BANKSY’s own authentication service known as Pest Control for a COA.  However, Pest Control receives thousands of requests and can take months to receive a response.  So, to expedite the process, I hired Robert J. Koenke & Associates.

Tate Embossment

Robert J. Koenke is a professional art authenticator, appraiser, and consultant.  Koenke reviewed the piece in person. He closely examined every element of the print from numbering, paper, ink, signature and more.  A notable discrepancy he found immediately was the size of the print which was off by nearly 2 inches. Also, the positioning of the handwritten number was incorrect. Lastly, the TATE embossment was incongruent with the authentic piece. The lack of COA by Pest Control was also a consideration. Koenke loves to give his clients good news but he had concerns and suspected it was a forgery. Like me, he trusted his professional opinion but wanted to verify it by getting a second opinion.  After all, if the piece was real, it was worth over $166,000!  It would be a very costly mistake to wrongly state it was a fake. Koenke sent photos, measurements, and details to authenticators in London and Texas.  The authenticator’s concurred that it was a fake.

Hand numbering

In the end, the gallery, knowingly tried to pass-off a forgery as an authentic $166,000 piece of art. The only question remained is why?  Most would speculate it is most likely finically motivated.  However, it should be noted that the owner didn’t pay for the print – that is was a gift given to the new owner by the gallery. Whatever the motive, if we trusted the gallery was telling us the truth, then we may have never known. Lesson learned: TRUST BUT VERIFY!

The fake BANKSY print as well as a fake Andy Warhol print will be displayed at Validate, LLC’s new headquarters in Severna Park, MD starting at the end of March 2021.

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