An Interview with Peter Hvidberg: one of the world’s preeminent collectors for Banksy, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst

Peter Hvidberg is one of the world’s preeminent collectors of Banksy, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst. His knowledge of art investment and the three most celebrated icons of contemporary art is staggering. On the back of last week’s genre-defining sale of Valuart’s own Banksy NFT, we couldn’t think of anyone we would rather speak to.
As Eddie and Izzy waited for Peter to connect from his art-laden home in Copenhagen, one of the issues with speaking with such an art collector came to the fore: the sheer volume and possibility of questions at our disposal. Fortunately, there was one question at the forefront of our minds: Spike.


Valuart’s Spike NFT was created via a combination of cuttingedge CGI and an aria E lucevan le stelle – performed by Italian tenor, Valuart co-founder and current owner of Spike, Vittorio Grigolo. Peter Hvidberg was one of the original owners of Spike and a font of knowledge regarding Banksy.

Modern Art, Warhol and Banksy

 

Before speaking on Spike, we asked Peter Hvidberg about what first attracted him to modern art and how he became a Banksy fan. As many before him, it was Andy Warhol’s avant-garde pursuits to alter the boundaries of creativity which first captured Peter’s attention. Warhol, as Warhol is want to do, led Peter on a journey of revelation and curiosity. Through Andy Warhol, Peter soon found his other two artistic loves: Damien Hirst and Banksy.
Warhol and Banksy are similar yet different, as Peter remarked, “Andy craved fame and rubbing shoulders with celebrity. He invented Instagram with his Polaroids. You don’t see any of that with Banksy.”

The anonymity of Banksy

To say the least. Banksy is of course renowned for his anonymity – indeed keeping his identity a secret could end up being one of his greatest works of art. Did the anonymity appeal to Peter? And, should the worst come to fruition, would Banksy’s anonymity being revealed lower the value of his work?

He’s the most known unknown person in the world. No (it wouldn’t lower the value of his work), but he will never come out or be revealed anyway.

Being an early investor in Banksy’s career gave Peter the freedom to hone his investment skills. He soon discovered he had a knack for buying the right pieces and, more importantly, selling them at the right time. Through his years in the art investment universe, what surprised him most about the art world?

I thought it was very intellectual, and in fact, it was about money. It’s a money game. Rich people from America; rich people from Italy and rich people from Switzerland.

The business side is amplified by the connections and contacts which govern the buying and selling of these wonders of modern art. They are not drawn out affairs over cognac and coffee in the velvet cafés of Paris and London, indeed meetings are sparse and rare, often via email, and always quick.
Fortunately, Peter likes the combination of both. This is clear when we move onto Banksy, Spike and the history of Bristol’s most revered street artist.

Kate Moss and Banksy

Peter’s first encounter with Banksy came through a print of Kate Moss. Homage to Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe series, Banksy’s Kate Moss series combines the features of Monroe and Kate Moss using the iconic colour schemes of the original. It is very much Banksy capturing the decade’s unwavering obsession with celebrity and fame with an artistic nod to Warhol and the unforgiving observation that some things never change.
After falling for Banksy via Kate Moss, Peter went on an art investment journey which led him across the world, across the intangible lines and colours of contemporary art, and eventually, to Spike.

The Story of Banksy’s Spike

Spike’s backstory begins in 2004. At the beginning of the century, Banksy held an annual treasure hunt. Via links on his website interested parties could follow clues and discover an original Banksy hidden amongst the rubble. Being Banksy, it quickly escalated to a more political location. In 2005 he took his treasure hunt to the concrete barrier separating the Palestinian West Bank and Israel. He hid Spike near the wall – under a sprayed rat with a shovel. Clues were communicated to the ether and whoever found the work then had to report the name to Banksy via email. The finder received a congratulatory return email from Banksy.
After the administrative hurdles of excavating and exporting such an item had been crossed, Spike went on its own world tour, passing through the hands of fine art collectors across Europe, eventually ending up in the grateful hands of Peter Hvidberg.

What was his first impression? “That it was Banksy.” And not just any Banksy. Any piece which relates to Banksy’s early years is art history. When it’s political, it is even more interesting. No other artist gets into political conflicts like Banksy.
However, the normality of everyday life, even for an international art collector, meant Peter couldn’t hold onto Spike for too long.

My wife didn’t want a piece of rock in the living room. So it had to go.

The evolution of Banksy

Has Banksy changed over the years? How has his art improved? Or is Banksy unique in that his style and message have remained unchanged through time? It’s a very personal question, and like art itself, of course subjective. For Peter, Banksy was more brilliant 15 years ago. His legacy made on the street, his best pieces from 2010 and backwards. When asked about Banksy’s studio work, Peter holds nothing back. “Studio work is just souvenirs for rich people.” The conversation moved onto Exit Through the Gift Shop and Mr Brainwash and Terry and the line between what is real and what is fake. If you are interested in how Peter Hvidberg thinks about the absurdity of Banksy as a film maker, listen to the whole podcast here.

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