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Banksy, “The Drinker” (2004)
Banksy, “The Drinker” (2004)via Sotheby’s

An artist claims a Banksy statue going to auction was stolen from him

The artist AK47, who claims ownership, ‘kidnapped’ the statue himself back in 2004

All the way back in 2004, a large-scale Banksy statue was erected on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue (illegally, ofc). It was dubbed “The Drinker”, a play on Rodin’s “The Thinker” with a traffic cone lodged on its head. Then it was stolen, which can’t have been an easy feat.

All of this is detailed in the 2016 documentary The Banksy Job. It turns out that the artist who took the statue was AK47, or Andy Link, a leader of the subversive group Art Keida who reached out to Banksy with a ransom note (Banksy offered £2 which, needless to say, wasn’t accepted). Link subsequently left the statue in his garden for three years before it was stolen yet again, just adding to the saga.

Now, “The Drinker” has cropped up at auction: specifically the Sotheby’s catalogue for the Contemporary Curated sale on November 19. The listing details Link’s heist as part of the history of the artwork, alongside the fact it was later: “mysteriously retrieved from Art Kieda’s lock up in an anonymous heist which left AK47 with nothing but the abandoned traffic cone from atop The Drinker’s head.”

All this tangled history can only have had a positive effect, because it’s the most expensive item in the sale, with estimates ranging from £750,000 to £1 million.

Link, however, is taking issue with the sale because the work was abandoned on the street and, after he took it and registered it with the police, Banksy didn’t ask for it back, therefore – he argues – it rightfully belongs to him.

“I do not understand how Sothebys can sell this when I have such proof,” he says, as reported by the Guardian, but he apparently can’t afford to challenge it, saying, “Lawyers are asking from £18,000 up just to take the case on, and I’m a struggling artist, just a working-class bloke.”

“The police should be looking into this.”

Sotheby’s, however, has said it’s satisfied with the legality of the auction, having contacted the Met Police and the Art Loss Register. Banksy’s representatives haven’t commented.