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Britain’s biggest museum acquired its first Banksy—but doesn’t have plans to show it

The British Museum has its first official Banksy.
Reuters/John Goh
The British Museum has its first official Banksy.
By John Detrixhe
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The centuries-old British Museum is the biggest in the UK and contains the Rosetta Stone, a collection of Egyptian mummies, and some of the oldest known artifacts of human history. And now it finally—this time officially—has a Banksy.

The museum acquired the street-artist prankster’s fake £10 banknote, which depicts the late princess Diana’s face instead of the Queen’s, according to the Guardian. The note was also edited by the artist to read “Banksy of England,” and “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price.” It’s titled “Di-faced Tenner” and is among thousands of copies Banksy made in 2004 for an art stunt.

Banksy’s work has technically been exhibited before by the museum, which receives around 6 million visitors a year. In 2005, the street artist hung a fake prehistoric rock, bearing a depiction a caveman pushing a shopping cart, in the museum. It went unnoticed for several days, according to the BBC, which quoted a museum spokeswoman saying the institution was ”seeing the lighter side of it.” Last year, a piece by the provocative Brit self-destructed, shredding itself after it was sold at auction for $1.4 million.

The fake banknote was donated by Pest Control, which manages and authenticates Banksy’s work, and it will be placed in the museum’s collection of currencies. However the museum told the Art Newspaper that it doesn’t currently plan to display the new acquisition. The museum couldn’t be reached by Quartz after normal business hours to explain why, but it’s likely because it houses some 8 million objects, only 1% of which (pdf) are displayed publicly at any given time.

But if you’re a disappointed Banksy fan, don’t fret. The banknote fakes can be purchased online for £1,000 to £2,500 ($1,309 to $3,272). Or if you go for a walk in London or Bristol, you can see various Banksy works for free.

John Detrixhe
Bristol: “The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.”

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