Capping his month-long residency in New York City, Banksy donated a work of art titled "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" to Housing Works, a charity that provides housing to the homeless and AIDS patients. The work was to be auctioned off to raise money for the charity, but in classic fashion for the reclusive artist, the auction devolved into finger-pointing and accusations, with the anonymous winning bidder backing out of their bid.
The original story was that the painting, which features a Nazi looking out an an idyllic landscape, was given to Housing Works by a woman, who told them it was a legitimate Banksy piece. Bidders were skeptical of that origin however, and believed that Housing Works had been contacted by Banksy for a canvas he could "paint a monster on."
Art broker Wil Emling, who bid on the Banksy, told the Guardian that "it's all part of the hype, part of the marketing machine that is Banksy. The whole back-story to this painting is completely false … There are just too many questions."
So if the backstory was false, was the winning bid as well? Was the bidder simply there to drive the price up?
"It's not uncommon for the price of a lot to go up in the final minutes, even by hundreds of dollars, but I do question that this painting jumped by several hundred thousand dollars. The increments were no longer logical," Emling said. "People were just jumping in, and it looked to me like they were deliberately trying to get the price up."
Once the winning bidder communicated that they could not pay their bid, Housing Works contacted the next highest bidder, who refused to pay a bid that had been placed in competition with a fraud. "Every bid that he made has to be out," art collector Rachel Hirschfeld told the New York Times.
Housing Works eventually sold the piece to an anonymous individual who paid at least $450,000. And while this Banksy chaos is growing a little tiresome, at least it raised a half-million dollars for the homeless.