Withdrawn due to legal issues, deemed a fake, or yet another PR stunt?
Dispite Sothebys consulting the Metropolitan Police and the Art Loss Register it seems they got cold feet. Sotheby’s commented to our sources today that ‘the only comment Sotheby’s can make at present is that is was the decision of Sothebys’. Estimated at £1m Banksy’s homage to the Rodin sculpture was the highlight of their upcoming contemporary art auction before being mysteriously withdrawn from the sale with just minutes to go. The work was much mentioned in the press over the weekend, with artist Andy Link claiming the piece was ‘stolen’ from him and therefore being sold illegally.
The Drinker is a satirical interpretation of Rodin’s The Thinker, the famous statue of a man in deep contemplation. The work originally appeared in a small square off Shaftesbury Avenue, London in 2004, without permission, in true Banksy style.
‘Art Kieda’ as Andy Link is better known, kidnapped the work, and registered his find with the police, calling Banksy for a ransom of “£2 towards a can of petrol” to set it alight. Apparently Link kept the work in his garden until 2007 when the sculpture was stolen.
The statue resurfaced in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue for today’s Contemporary Curated sale, with an estimated sale price of £750,000 to £1m, the top lot. Sotheby’s said it was satisfied the seller had a legal right to put the piece up for auction.
Sotheby’s sale notes say: “The work was mysteriously retrieved from Art Kieda’s lock-up in an anonymous heist which left AK47 with nothing but the abandoned traffic cone from atop The Drinker’s head,”.
“I kidnapped [The Drinker] on principle,” Mr Link told the Guardain last week: “Don’t tell me that I’m a tight Northern b****** … It wasn’t done as revenge, it was done as one-upmanship … All I wanted was to swap the statue for a canvas. I didn’t damage the statue, I didn’t damage Banksy’s reputation. I did him a big favour in my opinion….I’m a man of honour and respect and he disrespected me in a way I won’t allow.”
Today, post the sale the results seem to indicate the work was withdrawn. Lot 24 removed from the list. A crushing blow to Sotheby’s, their top lot and catalogue cover piece. What happened to The Drinker? Did Andy Link’s layers get busy in the 24 hours prior to auction, or did Sotheby’s simply decide it wasn’t worth the risk? Was the seller’s agreement not signed in time? We watch and wait, it seems there is never ending drama for Banksy fans, as this comes as the newest of a quick succession of high profile Banksy market events in recent weeks, including Gross Domestic Product, and the sale of Devolved Parliament.