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Banksy's latest prank on New York art world hangs in thrift shop

An installation by British graffiti artist Banksy is pictured in the Bronx section of New York October 21, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
An installation by British graffiti artist Banksy is pictured in the Bronx section of New York October 21, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

By Elizabeth Dilts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The renegade graffiti artist Banksy snubbed the art world again on Tuesday when he dropped off one of his paintings at a New York City thrift store.

The Housing Works thrift store, part of a chain that sells donated knickknacks to fund charities for AIDS and the homeless, began auctioning the Banksy original for $74,000 on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, it was already going for $220,000.

"It could go for as high as a million dollars or even higher because there's so much buzz about," said Elizabeth von Habsburg, managing director at the art appraisal firm Winston Art Group.

The auction ends Thursday night and Von Habsburg, who has a client that collects Banksy works, said she expects the painting to sell for $600,000 to $1 million.

Banksy's art has sold for as much as $1.87 million, according to Sotheby's auction house.

The British artist, who has remained anonymous since his work debuted in 1993, has been treating New Yorkers to a new piece of art each day of October for his "Better Out Than In" series.

The artwork - including stenciled rats graffitied on a Brooklyn building wall and the large statues of McDonald's Corp advertising icon Ronald McDonald getting a shoe shine displayed in the Bronx - pop up in unexpected locations and have attracted flocks of fans.

The thrift store's oil painting is a commonplace landscape featuring a mountain and a bench that Banksy bought and then added to, painting a Nazi soldier sitting on the bench gazing at the scenery. He named it "The banality of the banality of evil."

Store employees say the painting has received mostly positive reactions. It is currently hanging in the store's front window on East 23rd Street above a tomato-red loveseat and a dated wooden coffee table.

"I'm just happy it's going to our cause regardless of the image," store employee Archer Brady said, adding that the painting will be taken down after the auction ends Thursday.

(This story was fixed to correct name of series title in paragraph 6)

(Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)

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