At first glance, the social commentary of Banksy’s Valentine’s Day Mascara, a graffiti mural depicting a 1950s-style housewife pushing her male counterpart into a freezer, isn’t obvious. But the work’s statement on domestic violence becomes clear after taking a closer look at the female subject, who is donning not only a blue apron and yellow gloves but a black eye and missing tooth.
The mural, which utilizes material objects like a white freezer, overturned chair and frying pan, first appeared on the wall of a building located in the English seaside town of Margate on Valentine’s Day. Now, the Banksy piece is being offered to the public through a fractional art company, a fitting move for the anonymous artist known for his ironic and political public installations.
Starting August 22, Showpiece, a London-based company that sells collectibles, will release 27,000 shares of the mural across multiple drops. Valued at £6 million ($7.6 million), the public can purchase slivers of Valentine’s Day Mascara at £120 ($165) a piece, making them partial owners of the street art. Previous fractional art offers from Showpiece have included Reigning Queens, a 1985 Andy Warhol work; and a first edition of Charles Darwin’s legendary On the Origins of Species.
In honor of the work’s deeper message, the company is teaming up with Refuge, England’s largest domestic abuse organization, for the project. “We hope that by working with our charity partner, we can continue to promote the work they accomplish and support the causes Banksy is concerned with,” said Aaron Carter, Showpiece’s managing director, in a statement.
Far from the only company to enter the world of fractional art ownership, Showpiece’s offering joins the ranks of numerous other multi-million dollar works broken into shares for the public. Launching in 2017, Masterworks, which focuses on artwork valued up to $20 million and has a minimum buy-in of $15,000, was one of the first to make fractional art mainstream. Four years later, companies like Particle, co-founded by former Christie’s postwar and contemporary art co-chairman Loic Gouzer; and Yieldstreet, a New York-based investment platform, followed suit. Earlier this year, Freeport’s inaugural offering allowed the public to own a portion of four Andy Warhol prints for between $191 and $781. And in June, Artex, a Lichtenstein-based trading company, announced its intention to make a 1963 Francis Bacon triptych the first painting to go public by listing the work’s shares at $100 each on a regulated public exchange.
How is Showpiece different from other fractional art companies?
However, unlike most other organizations specializing in art investments, Showpiece has no plans to sell its Banksy. The mural itself has been a point of contention between Margate residents and the area’s local district council, which removed the work’s freezer and frying ban shortly after the graffiti appeared, prompting an outcry from the town’s citizens. The items were returned to the site shortly afterward. A month later, the section of the wall containing Valentine’s Day Mascara was removed for conservation purposes. It is now displayed at Dreamland Margate, one of England’s oldest amusement parks.
While Showpiece doesn’t seek out buyers for its works, it does allow collectors to vote on whether they’d like to accept a third-party purchase offer. With one vote per share, 60 percent of a work’s pieces must agree to sell before an item is sold off, with its proceeds distributed to owners.
But unless this occurs, Showpiece, which aims to “protect collectibles indefinitely for the enjoyment of our community of collectors,” intends to continue hosting the mural at Dreamland. “I’m so pleased that the Banksy work can be hosted at Dreamland, so that it remains in the town for everyone to see,” said Julian Usher, CEO of Red8 Gallery, which represents the interest of the mural’s original owner, in a statement. “The fact that it will be accessible for people to actually own a share in is wonderful—and it also means the mural can now make Margate its official home.”