Banksy Print Stolen Ahead of Toronto Art Exhibition

Posted June 15, 2018 4:05 p.m. EDT

The heist was carried out with a secrecy that Banksy himself might have admired.

Around 5 a.m. on June 10, a man sneaked into a Toronto warehouse wearing a black jacket, a green camouflage baseball hat and bluejeans. There, an exhibition of 80 prints and other artwork by the publicity-averse street artist and prankster was being readied for a coming show.

The man padded across the concrete floor, lifted a print of “Trolley Hunters” off the wall, and breezily walked out the door he came in. He was caught carrying the $38,000 print on surveillance video, which the Toronto Police Service distributed Thursday.

Corey Ross, the president of Starvox Entertainment in Toronto and a producer of the exhibition, “The Art of Banksy,” said staff members became aware of the theft when they came in that morning.

“I don’t know who did it or why,” he said. He denied that it was a publicity stunt ahead of the exhibition’s opening. All of the works are on loan from collectors who either bought them online or at a Banksy show.

“I’ve heard the rumors it was even Banksy who did it,” Ross said. “We want the work back. What he has taken has value to us, but no value on the street. We have the letter of authentication.”

Clearly, though, the promoters are cashing in on the artist’s fame. The show is organized by Steve Lazarides, the artist’s onetime gallerist and agent, who had a falling out with Banksy in 2008. Lazarides has made a career creating a market for his former colleague’s art. He has organized another exhibition, “Banksy, Greatest Hits: 2002-2008,” which will open in London in July. He did not return calls seeking comment.

The Toronto exhibition, which opened to the public on June 13, is not authorized or endorsed by the artist, whose anti-capitalist ethos permeates his street art and installations. Promoters are charging a $35 entry fee to see the show, a considerable sum given the ubiquity of the artist’s street fare. As Kate Taylor, a critic for The Globe and Mail, said in a recent review, “if you want to see lots of Banksy images, try Google and save yourself the price of admission.”

“Trolley Hunters” made its first exhibition appearance at Banksy’s “Barely Legal” show in Los Angeles in 2006, which also featured a live elephant swabbed in red paint and adorned with gold fleurs-de-lis. The show, billed as his first large-scale exhibition in the United States, was a hit and Banksy later released color editions of the print.

Banksy makes a habit of not revealing himself in public, although his work is widely shown. In one stunt, he sneaked his work into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and hung it on the wall. More recently, he submitted a work to the Royal Academy’s annual summer exhibition under the name Bryan S. Gaakman. After the artwork was rejected, he submitted a revised version, which was displayed.

Ross, the producer, does not own any of Banksy’s work, although he said it was quite affordable given the artist’s fame. “I have a car that cost more than that painting,” he said, referring to the stolen “Trolley Hunters” print. “That is an eye opener for me.”