BANKSY is being sued for almost £1.4million over an Instagram post in which he urged shoplifters to target high street fashion store Guess, The Sun can reveal.
The elusive street artist is being dragged into the High Court for libel by Andrew Gallagher who has made a business out of selling images of his work through his company Full Colour Black.
It is the latest in a long running feud between Gallagher and the Banksy collective – thought to be made up of a number of artists including founder and original artist, believed to be Robin Gunningham, and Brit Art icon Damien Hirst.
One of Gallagher’s other firms, Brandalised, was involved in a tie-up with High Street fashion firm Guess last Autumn in which the clothing company used Banksy images to advertise their brand.
In a since deleted post allegedly made on November 18, Banksy’s Instagram account, which has 12 million followers, used an image of Guess’ shop window with the words: “Alerting all shoplifters. Please go to GUESS on Regent Street.
“They’ve helped themselves to my art without asking. How can it be wrong to do the same to their clothes.”
In its High Court claim, Full Colour Black alleged that it “contained defamatory words which referred to, and were understood to refer to, the Claimant”.
Gallagher is suing “The Artist known as ‘Banksy’ and Pest Control Office Limited, the body that authenticates his art”.
His lawyer Aaron Wood stressed they were not suing Robin Gunningham.
Full Colour Black is seeking at least £1,357,086 in damages and an injunction preventing further alleged defamation.
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The pair’s conflict goes back more than a decade when Full Colour Black started selling photos taken of Banksy’s public work.
It is unlikely Banksy will appear in court in person.
Mr Wood told The Sun: “The worst thing that could happen to Banksy is if he gets unmasked by appearing in court.
“His work will change in the public’s view if everyone knows who he is and that he has a back story.”
Banksy and Pest Control is understood to have acknowledged the High Court writ and has a month to file their defence.
Despite being known across the globe, Banksy’s true identity has never been revealed.
As graffiti can be considered criminal damage, initially it is thought the artist, whose work has been spotted around the UK and internationally, chose to remain anonymous to avoid a run-in with the law.
You can see a full list of Banksy’s street work here.