Earlier this week, New Times reported that the newly opened Riviera South Beach Hotel claimed to have commissioned street artist Banksy to design tiles that were placed around the hotel, in public areas such as its bathrooms.
When a reader tipped us off to an similar-looking line of tiles sold by Spanish company Peronda, named "Bansky" but otherwise unrelated to the famous British graffiti artist, we once again asked hotel representatives for an explanation. (Hotel owner Nathan Lieberman did not respond to requests for comment for our original story.) In response, Alan Lieberman, owner and president of the South Beach Group Hotels, which operates the Riviera South Beach, maintained the tiles were designed by Banksy and purchased through a Banksy agent.
But that's not true, according to Banksy's publicist, Jo Brooks. In an email to New Times sent Thursday, Brooks writes, "I can confirm that the tiles you mentioned are fake and not by the artist Banksy."
Banksy is a notoriously elusive figure, known as much for his anonymity as for his art. The artist typically refuses to verify his own work, though fans generally assume art posted to Banksy's website, banksyny.com, is the real deal. Brooks represents several other British artists; she also facilitated Banksy's exclusive interview with New Times' sister paper the Village Voice earlier this month.
In that interview, Banksy told the Voice that "commercial success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist." So the artist agreeing to produce commissioned work for a hotel or an interior design company seems unlikely.
But in an email statement sent to New Times Wednesday night, before Banksy's publicist weighed in, Alan Lieberman seemed certain the tiles in the Riviera were the real deal:
Banksy was commissioned to do a series of different large tiles. There are a dozen different graffiti drawings of his most familiar and popular work. I was aware of his art being made available and contacted his agent and then placed the tiles throughout the new Riviera South Beach Hotel building's common areas.
Neither of the Liebermans, nor anyone else affiliated with the hotel, has commented on the record about Brooks' denial. (A representative of the hotel said both Alan and Nathan Lieberman are traveling abroad with limited ability to correspond.)
But late Thursday, Alan Lieberman sent a series of emails to New Times. One simply said, "Sending info on bansky [sic] tiles." The following email, sent two minutes later, included solely a link to a short article about the Peronda tiles by the design publication Interiors & Sources. The description states, "The Banksy series from Peronda takes its inspiration from the grunge scene, channeling street art from New York and inspirational artists like Banksy."
Lieberman did not respond to follow-up questions yesterday.
Carolina del Busto contributed to this report.
UPDATE: We've received a new statement from Alan Lieberman via email:
Banksy was commissioned by Peronda, one of the largest tile companies in the world from Spain, to use his artwork for a collection of tiles that are called "The Banksy Series." These commissioned tiles, featuring Banksy's designs, were purchased from Peronda for our installation at the newly opened Riviera South Beach Hotel.
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The email also includes a link to these tiles at the Peronda website, which are named "Bansky," a misspelling of Banksy's name.
But Eric Garcia, a representative at Peronda reached by phone this morning, told New Times that Peronda has no affiliation with Banksy. "They are inspired, this is true. But we don't have any incorporation with him," he said. "That's why we call [the tiles] 'Bansky,' not 'Banksy.'"
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.