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Banksy work sells at Miami auction for $575,000

Banksy Auction

NEW YORK (AP) - One of three works by the elusive British street artist Banksy offered Tuesday at a Miami auction sold for $575,000.

An anonymous buyer purchased "Kissing Coppers," spray-painted in 2005 on the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, England, and removed from the side of the building to stand alone. The piece was expected to sell anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000.

The two other works - "Bandaged Heart" and "Crazy Horse Car Door" - went unsold because they didn't receive their minimum bids, said Ashley Jimenez, a spokeswoman for Fine Art Auctions Miami. Jimenez said interested buyers can still contact the auction house within 30 days.

New York City art dealer Stephan Keszler, the owner of all three Banksy works that went to auction, said he was happy with the selling price for "Kissing Coppers." And while the other two pieces didn't meet their reserve bids, he said he was encouraged by the offers they received.

"Kissing Coppers," a black-and-white stencil of two uniformed English "bobbies" (police officers) in a passionate clinch, reportedly was lifted and transferred to a canvas before the pub sold it to Keszler.

"Bandaged Heart," which was spray-painted on the side of a Brooklyn warehouse, was removed by a team of specialists shortly after it was completed during Banksy's self-proclaimed New York City residency in the fall, Keszler said.

Keszler, who owns Keszler Gallery in Manhattan and Southampton, said he paid to have the 8-foot-by-11-foot hole left behind sealed up. He declined to say how much he paid for the 1,500-pound chunk of art, saying only: "Less than I will sell it for."

"Bandaged Heart," an image of a heart-shaped balloon covered in Band-Aids, had a pre-sale estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. Soon after it went up, the work was immediately "tagged" (a la aerosol art-style) by another graffiti artist. It's believed Banksy then added the words "is a jealous little" afterward.

"Crazy Horse Car Door," also created during Banksy's New York residency, was estimated to bring $200,000 to $300,000. It is a rear door of a Manhattan car spray-painted with a scene depicting a struggling, Herculean figure surrounded by running horses.

In the last three years, Keszler said, he has sold 11 original works by the street artist, including "Banksy Slave Labor (Bunting Boy)," which sold for $1.1 million in London to a U.S. collector.

Asked if he worries about selling art by someone whose identity remains a mystery, Keszler quipped: "He knows who we are."

Banksy, who refuses to reveal his full identity, began his career spray-painting buildings in Bristol, England. During his monthlong stint in New York in October, he put pictures of his work on his website containing clues on their locations but nothing precise. That spawned a hunt by fans who tracked down the works, shared locations via social media, then swarmed to see them.

Keszler said he decided to get into selling street art "because no one else is doing it. It's a very good niche."

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