In February 2019, the British Museum collected a £10 banknote worth quite a bit more than that.
The Di-Faced Tenner, it’s called — one of thousands of photocopied works produced in 2004 by the anonymous graffiti artist known as Banksy. It’s called that because Princess Diana’s face has replaced the Queen’s. The note says, too, that it was issued by the “Banksy of England.” And it reads: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price.”
Banksy made about a million quid’s worth of notes, which he intended to pass out at Reading Festival and other outdoor events. But as he notes in the clip below, from his critically acclaimed 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, after he’d handed out a few, he watched people try to spend them at the bar — which meant, essentially, the artist had just forged a million quid.
“And obviously,” he says, “for that you’d go to jail for 10 years.”
Instead, the banknotes wound up in cardboard boxes. And in time, they would find themselves in museums and galleries. And those phony notes would be duped themselves, until it became hard to tell the real thing from the real fake from the fake fake — if that makes sense.
There are actually two available from Heritage Auctions at the Urban Art Monthly Online Auction on April 8. They are very much the real thing … at least, a real Banksy.
“There is a long history of political and social discourse through this type of protest which made us keen to acquire it,” Tom Hockenhull, the British Museum’s curator of modern money, told the Guardian last year. “Also, it’s a Banksy — why wouldn’t we want it? It’s an opportunity for us to have a work by an artist of that stature as part of a collection that people might not consider the typical respository for a work by Banksy.
“From our perspective, it joins a long list of artists who have created, adapted or destroyed currency for the purposes of their work.”