A Bristol youth charity has sold a piece of artwork it received from the street artist Banksy for more than £400,000, which the cash-strapped charity said would safeguard its future.
Mobile Lovers, which Banksy agreed to donate to the Broad Plain & Riverside Youth Project in April, was originally expected to sell for at least a million pounds after several multi-million-pound offers were received from as far away as Los Angeles and South Africa.
It was instead sold to private collector for £403,000 and will remain in the UK.
Dennis Stinchcombe, centre director of the youth club, said it was nevertheless "marvellous" that it sold for this amount, because BPRYP would not have to close its doors after facing financial problems earlier in the year.
Asked what the charity intended to spend the money on, Stinchcombe said: "It’s not so much about a shopping list; it’s about how we can survive as an organisation. My trustees are going to get together and plan a strategy for the next three to four years to ensure the club stays open and that we don’t waste the money, because that would be a tragedy – this is only ever going to come round the once. We have to capitalise on it and make sure we do the right thing."
The club’s biggest expense will be a new chairlift to improve access for disabled users.
Stinchcombe said the picture sold for less than originally anticipated because the early bidders withdrew their offers. He said that acquiring the picture had been a useful experience for the charity’s trustees, who had worked hard to interview auction houses and potential buyers over the past few months.
The youth club, which works with about 1,000 young people every month, plans to share the proceeds from the sale with other clubs that are part of the Young Bristol umbrella organisation of which BPRYP is a member.
Mobile Lovers was originally painted on a piece of wood on a street near BPRYP, so it was uncertain who it was intended for. On discovering the work, BPRYP stored it at its premises, believing it was meant as a gift to the club, but when this was questioned, it was handed over to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery while ownership was established.
The charity later received a letter from Banksy explaining that the work was meant to be a small gift for the area but the youth club had his blessing to do what it felt was right with the piece.
In March, a month before the picture was discovered, Stinchcombe gave six staff members redundancy notices because cash at the organisation was running out.