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Banksy’s online store: ‘Why does art matter?’

GDP homepage

Two weeks ago Banksy opened a homewares store called Gross Domestic Product TM in Croydon, South London ( see our coverage here ). He made it clear that interested buyers weren’t in for a regular shopping experience and while the store attracted crowds, it physically did not open and it was not possible to purchase anything. Now that the pop up display shop has closed, the Gross Domestic Product TM official website reveals the homewares brand from BanksyTM.

In true subversive and irreverent Banksy style, the English artist continues to offer an unconventional retail experience where fans can, not purchase, but apply to purchase some of the pieces that were displayed in the Croydon pop-up.

The Gross Domestic Product online store offers merchandise with prices starting at £10 ($13) for a Banksy branded aerosol of paint to £850 for the stab vest as worn by Stormzy at the Glastonbury Festival in June.

Welcome mat

A “Banksy Welcome Mat,”  is “hand stitched using the fabric from life vests abandoned on the beaches of the Mediterranean,” the website says. The product is produced in collaboration with the organization Love Welcomes, which works with refugee women to produce mats from “life vests and blankets worn by frightened, exhausted Syrians as they wash up on European shores” and directs proceeds back to the refugee weavers.

The site also warns customers that they may have a “disappointing retail experience,” explaining, “Everything is produced by a handful of people using recycled material wherever possible in a workplace culture of daytime drinking. So there isn’t loads of it and it’s not all ready to ship straight away.”

Each Banksy’s creations will be sold to the most deserving bidder, as determined by his good will. There are some strict specific rules.

The website is clear from the outset that the store doesn’t work on a “first come, first serve” basis. Until October 28, shoppers can browse the items and sign up to a list. Each buyer can only sign up for one item—so choose wisely.

Those who want a Banksy original must answer the question ‘Why does art matter?’, with the ‘Why’ crossed out, in 50 words or less, and supply their contact information.

The reply to this question will be vital—if demand spikes, they will be used to help evaluate who gets to make the purchase. In fact, buyers are asked to make their answers “as amusing, informative or enlightening as possible.”

Applications will be randomly selected and then narrowed down. According to the website, answers will be assessed by an impartial and independent judge, namely a professional stand-up comedian. Winning registrants will receive word that they have won the option to purchase the selected item.

The original products, which will be awarded a certification of authenticity on the second anniversary of the purchase, are priced far below market value.

In fact, Gross Domestic Product isn’t aimed at the high-end collector. A disclaimer on the store’s website actually states that wealthy art collectors should “refrain from registering at this time,” in order to give lower-income art lovers a chance at this piece of history.

It will be interesting to see if Banksy’s safeguards keep these items out of the hands of people looking to flip the work and make a profit and, instead, into the homes of those who could never afford a $12 million painting.

So to enter the competition to purchase an item from Banksy’s online store, please provide your answer to the question “Why does art matter?”  on www.GrossDomesticProduct.com by 28 October 2019

Photo credit: Gross Domestic Product website