Boys' club set for Banksy windfall

A youth club which was facing closure is celebrating a potential multimillion-pound windfall after mysterious street artist Banksy said it could have a painting he created nearby.

Banksy artwork Mobile Lovers.
Banksy artwork Mobile Lovers.

Dennis Stinchcombe, who has worked at Bristol's Broad Plain Boys' Club for the past 39 years, said Banksy's Mobile Lovers painting could pump more than £2 million into its coffers.

The "elated" 58-year-old said: "Banksy has become the saviour of this club that I have volunteered at for years. I think the man deserves a medal, if somehow he could come out of his secrecy.

"Without him I would have looked at closing this club within the next 12 months.

"It is not only going to do this club good, it is also going to help other clubs because it will help all the young kids in the community and is the main thing that this has all been about."

The piece, showing a couple embracing while checking their mobile phones, has been at the centre of wrangles over who owned it since it appeared on a council-owned wall in Clement Street, Bristol, a month ago.

It was attached to a plank of wood and screwed to the wall.

Mr Stinchcombe moved it into a corridor at the inner-city club and invited members of the public to come and view it - with donations optional.

Within days the police removed the painting and handed it to the city council, which took it to the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

The city's mayor George Ferguson has now announced that a note to Mr Stinchcombe saying "As far as I'm concerned you can have it " has been authenticated as coming from Banksy.

The BBC reported that in the note Banksy said he was "a great admirer of the work done at the club", adding: "You have my blessing to do what you feel is right with the piece."

Mr Ferguson wrote on Twitter: "Just received confirmation by #Banksy that note to #Bristol Broad Plain Boys Club is authentic. Great to have a clear resolution.

"As far as I'm concerned it now belongs to the club as I'd agreed once confirmation received from Banksy.

"I've received confirmation by #Banksy that note is authentic & 'Mobile Lovers' can go to the #Bristol Broad Plain Boys Club :-)"

Mr Stinchcombe, who received death threats from art fans after he revealed plans to sell the piece to raise money, now hopes to put it up for sale.

He said: "It went to the museum and it is good that it is there - let as many people come to see it as possible. We have had people saying it is worth a million - that was the sort of bids we were getting and £2.5 million has been spoken of from some places around the world. It is going to be a fair bit of revenue.

"Banksy has been a saviour of this club and I think he appreciates my tenacity.

"Now that we know that it (the painting) is genuine and everything has been done right we can now look to what we can do with it. Where it is at the moment is fine. It is based in a museum and that is a nice place for it.

"We will now look at the various valuers and auction houses to see about the best values for the piece.

"It is fantastic. This thing will safeguard this club for the rest of its days."

A screen print of Mobile Lovers has been installed in the artwork's original home, a boarded-up doorway overlooking the busy A4032 road into Bristol's centre.