Banksy art sale saves youth club
A Banksy artwork which was painted on a wall outside a cash-strapped youth club has been sold to a private collector for £403,000.
Mobile Lovers, showing a couple embracing while checking their mobile phones, appeared on a doorway next to Broad Plain Working With Young People in Bristol in April.
The piece, attached to a piece of wood and screwed to the wall on Clement Street, was removed by members of the youth club with a crowbar.
Club owner Dennis Stinchcombe moved Mobile Lovers to a corridor and invited members of the public to come and view it, with donations optional.
Within days, police removed the stencil and handed it to the city council, which put it on display at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery while its ownership was established.
Elusive artist Banksy later took the unusual step of writing a letter to Mr Stinchcombe, stating that "as far as I'm concerned, you can have it".
Today, it was announced that Broad Plain Working With Young People had sold the piece to a private collector in the UK for £403,000 - securing the future of the club.
Mr Stinchcombe welcomed the sale of the piece and thanked Banksy for saving the youth club, which has operated in Bristol for 120 years.
"We are incredibly lucky to have Banksy donate their piece to our club," Mr Stinchcombe told a packed press conference at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
"Within 12 months we could have well been closed, which means 120 years of exceptional youth work in Bristol would have been lost.
"That would have been a tragedy for Bristol."
All proceeds from the sale will go to Broad Plain Working With Young People, with a portion shared with a number of other voluntary sector youth clubs across Bristol.
Mr Stinchcombe said: "Banksy came along at the right time. It has been really good for Bristol all round - £403,000 is really going to do something for us.
"If that's what Banksy has done, what a fantastic thing. Thank you, Banksy."
Mr Stinchcombe said members of the youth club had widened their hobbies from sport to art, with a "Thank You Banksy" wall erected by the side of the site.
The sale of the piece was organised by the UK's leading street art expert, Mary McCarthy, of MM Contemporary Arts Ltd.
George Ferguson, mayor of Bristol, said the city would be sad to see the piece go but welcomed the amount paid for it.
"We couldn't have a better outcome," he said. "In a way I am sorry that Bristol loses the work because it would have been lovely to have that win-win.
"Thanks to the client too, in a way it is a bit of philanthropy what they have done. They have not just bought a work of art, they have donated something really worthwhile to an organisation that gives kids a real second chance.
"Some kids in the centre of the city are left with a really difficult time. When you can get them off the streets and do worthwhile things, that is a huge service, not just for those kids but for the whole of Bristol."
The work drew large crowds to the museum and art gallery, where it has remained since April, raising more than £2,000 in donations for the club over the April Bank Holiday weekend.
Broad Plain Working With Young People was facing closure earlier this year and required £120,000 to survive - until the Banksy stencil arrived next to the club's gates.
Mr Stinchcombe, who faced death threats after removing the piece from the wall, previously said offers of £2 million had been made for it.