More than a decade after he brazenly placed a fake piece of artwork on the wall of one of his galleries, Banksy officially joined the British Museum's collection for the first time.
The museum acquired its first work by anonymous graffiti artist, a fake 10 pound note representing Diana, the Princess of Wales, who will join her collection of coins, medals and other coins.
The work, titled Di-faced Tenner, was one of thousands of copies produced by the artist in 2004, as part of a planned art feat. Unlike the other work of art, a false cave painting in concrete, which was loaned back to the museum for a recent exhibition on dissent and protest, the note was donated to the museum by the artist's representative, Pest Control.
Tom Hockenhull, the museum's modern money curator, said he had been trying for years to get hold of a genuine Tenner to add to the museum's collection of skits, or parodies of actual notes. "The problem is, because [Banksy] was actually producing them as photocopies, anyone else could do that too, so there was no way to really check whether they were from Banksy or not. "
The artifact would complement other objects held by the museum, he said, like the bank restriction note made in 1820 by celebrated caricaturist George Cruikshank, which showed 11 people being hanged to illustrate the human cost of Bank of England policy at the time.
Contacted by the Guardian, an artist spokesman said the note was donated by "someone who heads the Banksy exchange."
In addition to showing Diana's face instead of the Queen's, the note was changed to read "Banksy of England" and the motto: "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the final price."
"There is a long history of political and social discourse through this kind of protest that made us want to acquire it," Hockenhull said. "In addition, it's a Banksy – why do not we want it? It's an opportunity for us to have an artist's work of that stature as part of a collection that people may not consider the typical repository for a Banksy job.
"From our perspective, he joins a long list of artists who have created, adapted, or destroyed the currency for the purposes of their work."
The artist described the origin of Diana's £ 10 notes in his 2010 Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop, saying he earned £ 1 million pounds, planning to throw them out of a building. He had given some notes at the Reading festival, but he realized that the joke did not work when people started taking them to the bar to spend. "It was like, motherfucker, we just forged a million pounds, and obviously for that you'd go to jail for ten years." The distribution was quickly discontinued.
Banksy made headlines in 2005 as he surreptitiously hung the small piece of concrete, covered with a stone hunter and a shopping cart, and accompanied by a fake note calling him Banksymus Maximus. Although the artist has pasted on the walls of the museum where he was not sighted by the team for several days – "cool title has never been transferred," Hockenhull said. "For legal purposes, we had to treat it as lost property, effectively."
The work, called Peckham Rock, was loaned to the museum last year for a curated exhibition by Ian Hislop called I Object, which explored the history of dissent but returned to the artist when he concluded. "I'm sure we would love to have this in the collection, but I do not think it's a future offer," Hockenhull said.