East Williamsburg landlord burdened with a Banksy

October 19, 2013 10:00AM

What does it mean when overnight your building becomes a sought after work of art? Do you preserve it? Do you hire security guards to protect it and to control the crowds of tourists that will descend on it? That’s the predicament more than a dozen landlords have found themselves in since famed London-based graffiti artist Banksy began his New York City “residency.”

Banksy’s latest piece to come to light, his 17th this month, is on a building in East Williamsburg. It depicts two geishas holding umbrellas, crossing a bridge formed by a basement window arch. Within hours of being discovered, crowds of up to 500 fans began to form.

“The truth is — at the end of an exhausting day filled with phone calls talking to lawyers, security companies, art experts, and reporters — I have no idea what it means,” the landlord of the East Williamsburg building wrote in New York Magazine. “There is no rule book when one of the most famous artists in the world decides to drop his work into your life.”

Almost immediately fights broke out around the piece as rival graffiti artists attempted to deface the piece, while fans defended it. Ultimately, the landlord was forced to hire security guards. And as to the question of whether owning a building with a Banksy will make you rich, the verdict is out. In London, many of the buildings that Banksy has used as a canvas have increased in value, but it’s not yet clear whether renters, buyers or investors are willing to shell out additional cash to live in or own a “Banksy building.” [NYM]Christopher Cameron