THE MAN BEHIND BANKSY
Source: Athens Insider
Art dealer Steve Lazarides is the man that discovered him and was the first to sell his work. Originally trained as a photographer, Lazarides came to London in 1992 and ended up working for various studios, including David Bailey, until he decided that this was not the way he wanted to work. After years of taking odd jobs, he found work with underground free magazine Sleaze Nation, and it was in 1998 he met Banksy and started photographing his work.
Having sold Banksy prints before Banksy was a household name, and before Lazarides even owned a gallery space, he notes, “I was looking after Banksy, but I was also looking after lots of other people as well.” This was a time when Lazarides had set up a screen-printing business selling prints and originals of artists including Banksy and Jamie Hewlett. “We wanted to make cheap art for the masses, that was the plan originally,” he recalls. His original business plan to sell originals and prints has been realized in his two London spaces; Rathbone Place presents the original works, and Shop at Greek Street sells artists prints.
In fact, what Lazarides did for street art in the UK is pretty much down to the fact he was first gallerist to exhibit street art, or what is becoming known today as ‘urban art’, a term he does not find easy to accept.
Since our conversation with him Steve Lazarides has continued to break new ground in the art world, organising several “pop-up shows” in various locations outside of his gallery and in June of this year he organised an unsanctioned travelling Banksy show, featuring over 80 original Banksy works on loan from various art collectors.
In the wake of Banksy’s latest stunt (Performance? Art? Political statement? All of the above?) Lazarides spoke to CNN about his old colleague, still among the very few who know his real identity. He recalled that in 2006 Banksy’s pieces were still called ‘street souvenirs’ rather than art and the very same painting that now may be worth twice the original $1.4 million bid. “Part of the painting destruction is a statement on how much his paintings are going for now.” He described the stunt as completely characteristic of the anti-establishment street artist and called it “one of the finest moments in auction history”.