What is The Pest Control Office?
Pest Control is the only official body that can authenticate your Banksy print. It was set up in 2009 and is run by Banksy himself. It continues his desire to keep at arms-length from the traditional gallery system. It also, very occasionally, has works to sell; you can sign up for an email list to be contacted about such news.
No other body has the authority to authenticate Banksy’s works, although from time to time there are attempts to establish dealer-led independent verification bodies, none of them has achieved any true staying power.
Pest Control only certifies pieces that were produced for commercial sale, mostly the editions of silkscreen prints. Street-art pieces made on walls, doors, etc., won’t get a certificate (with a few occasional exceptions). They were never meant to be sold so Banksy won’t condone their sale later on (for more information on this please read Is That A Real Banksy? How To Verify Banksy Prints With Pest Control.
Cynically, this could be Banksy controlling his market and exerting power over his product. Like any significant international brand seeking to clamp down on counterfeit. But, what’s wrong with that?
How do you contact Pest Control?
Pest Control is online-only; all communications are by email with its website (see below).
What’s on the Pest Control website?
It’s just a few scant, unlinked pages. There are no links, so you need to work a tiny bit to find your way around (we’ve don’t that for your below).
The home page, http://pestcontroloffice.com, states unequivocally:
“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 particular 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.
Please be aware that because many Banksy pieces are created in an advanced state of intoxication, the authentication process can be lengthy and challenging. Pest Control deals only with legitimate works of art and has no involvement with any kind of illegal activity.
Banksy is not represented by any other gallery or institution. All enquiries and complaints should be directed to the address below. [email protected]”
How do I get a PoA? Proof of Authentication Certificate?
You fill in an online form on the Pest Control website to request authentication using these two pages:
One page is for authentication of prints http://pestcontroloffice.com/AuthForm_Prints.asp,
One page is for authentication of ‘works of art’ http://www.pestcontroloffice.com/AuthForm_Originals.asp.
Fill in the Pest Control Authentication Request Form carefully, with as much clear detail as you can
Think of it as a bit of gentle mental exercise – you have to be on the ball to successfully navigate the Pest Control system. Make sure you upload a good quality series of photos, showing any relevant detail. If there’s a signature on the print that can help verify. You need to make sure you know the edition number, dimensions, purchase price, date purchased and have a photo of proof of purchase, clear images.
As with any form-filling exercise, you need to have kept consistent paperwork (receipts of purchase, the original wrapping addressed to you, the name/address of the person you bought it off – take photos of all these and send them).
This process is conventional in the art world, it’s called “provenance” and a huge part of establishing the legitimacy of the work of art itself and the right of the vendor to be selling it. There are numerous cases of faked provenance and disputed ownership in the art world (just Google the Maria Altmann case to read about a famous story of disputed provenance, maybe you’ve seen the film of this same case? (Sorry, we’re digressing…)
There’s nothing particularly sly or complicated about the Pest Control authentication process. Many users say they find the service really helpful and professional. Basically, you need a paper trail and as much information as you can.
If you need help, MyArtBroker can advise.
Uploading images to the Pest Control website – things to bear in mind
If you try to send too big photo files, they won’t upload, and the form won’t submit (we can only assume their server gets full up with). About 1MB to 2 MB is the right size, and make sure you only upload JPEGs (you might need someone with Photoshop to help you).
Remember that Banksy is an activist at heart, he expects you to get involved with the process. Lazy uploaders be warned. Banksy is not going out of his way to help you; the ball’s in his court.
How long does it take to hear back from Pest Control?
It’s a bit like the Passport Office if you fill in all the elements correctly and your application is straightforward – you can sometimes get a speedy reply, as soon as two days. Or, if you don’t fill the form in correctly, or don’t have an honest query, it might take months.
Once you’ve emailed, they should email you back with a unique “authentication request number”, keep this to hand for any correspondence. Pest Control may have a long backlog of requests so will probably let you know if that’s the case. If the seller is already on their system that may speed things up too.
The CoA, Certificate of Authentication, what’s it look like?
From ones that we’ve seen they are all the same format: a white piece of paper with an elephant/bomb Banksy motif at the top, with the official title, medium, year, size, edition, any notes, and then the all-important “this is to certify that the work described above is an ‘original work of art’ by Banksy”. They are signed in pink or red pen with a slightly illegible and flamboyant squiggle in marker pen. It looks like “Auxier Owerr” or “Olivier Owanka”– maybe some elaborate anagram? Witty pseudonym? (For someone whose original practice involved tagging walls with names, surely there’s some riddle here…).
The CoA also comes with one half of a hand-marked Di-faced note (Banksy’s fake £10 notes) stapled to it. Pest Control keeps the other half of this note to eliminate attempts to forge this CoA. Only a pretty determined fraudster could duplicate the notes, although some collectors do have copies.
The certificate is a decent transaction considering Pest Control’s admin work, plus you get quite a civilised bit of Banksy memorabilia in return.
Do I pay a fee for the authentication certificate?
You only pay if you’re successful (£50.00 admin fee currently + VAT, which is pretty fair). All emails to and from Pest Control are supposed to be confidential, and while we’ve seen examples of various, it would be wrong to share them here. If you’re unsuccessful, they send a terse email to that effect. They don’t do appeals or seem to change their mind on decisions, unless you have very great proof to back up your case.
Do I need the CoA, Certificate of Authentication?
Many buyers/auction houses will not proceed with a sale without a CoA from Pest Control. The certificate will also help insure the work for its correct value.
How can I verify a Pest Control CoA certificate that someone shows me?
The best analogy is car tax. The work will be registered to you and your address (just like a car). The signed certificate can could be faked, so you’ll need to check the registration back with Pest Control to verify that the person claiming to own the work, does indeed have rightful ownership.
Any potential buyer can check with Pest Control to find the registered owner, you’ll need to have the print edition number, etc. Remember, don’t waste their time.
There should only be one version of that iteration of the print run. (Technically, it’s just possible that a registered owner could then fake their print, but it’s unlikely and, at least you’ve got their correct address).
You certainly want to see the print in real life before committing to buy though, and if you know the unique edition number, you can monitor the web to see if anyone else claims to be selling the same (turns out, there’s a useful purpose to those edition numbers). If you buy/sell a piece, you can then change the ownership name by emailing Pest Control your details.
Contacting Pest Control
We couldn’t find any phone number for Pest Control, and they didn’t reply to our emails requesting clarification, but – to be honest – why should they? There are plenty of online forums to help. urbanartassociation.com has a helpful forum to discuss the market, and if you click through and register, you’ll find many examples of what the certificates look like and discussion about problems with authentication. Likewise, a quick ‘advanced search’ of eBay should throw up examples of CoAs from Pest Control.
What is a POW, Picture on Walls, certificate?
This is a previous, now defunct, print shop, established in 2003 in London’s East End partly by Banksy. It used to issue certificates for Banksy prints too, with a very smart embossed logo, but it ceased trading in 2017 as its artists had become “too successful”.
It was always outside the main gallery system, allowing artists to sell direct and not have to pay commission to a dealer. It helped many now-famous street artists make a living by producing high-quality original prints. In so doing, it perfected many specialist print techniques and pioneered the use of eco-friendly, more expensive, non-solvent inks (traditional printing can damage the environment with its solvent-based by-products).
If you still have, or are offered, a POW (Pictures on Walls) certificate, it should help speed up your Pest Control authentication. POW works have stamps and numbers on the reverse.
The buyer community can also help you verify your purchase. At the heart of it, most committed buyers are known to each other and are a loyal group of like-minded aficionados. If you buy outside the group, it might be problematic. Use your common sense, if it’s too good to be true; it probably is. Go down the authentication route and you should get results.