Culture News

No, There Isn't a Banksy at The Lost Leaf in Phoenix

So, have you heard anything recently about that alleged Banksy piece that suddenly appeared over at The Lost Leaf? Probably so, since news of the alleged creation by the enigmatic street artist has been all over social media and the talk of Roosevelt Row.

If you're not up on the latest gossip, here's the skinny: Sometime this past weekend, Banksy supposedly adorned the Fifth Street drinkery with one of his signature stencil works, which featured a rat wielding a broom along with the words, "Paul Horner, I come for you."

Here's the kicker: It's a complete and total hoax, courtesy of the guy namechecked in the alleged art work.

See also: Phoenix Hoax-Master Has People Convinced "Twerking" Is Banned in Louisiana Town

Local prankster Paul Horner, who's become an expert at trolling the Internet and news outlets around the world with fake news stories and media hoaxes, admitted to New Times via Facebook chat that the whole thing is a gonzo prank, much like most of his efforts in recent years. (Some of his greatest hits include stories claiming that actor Bill Murray was launching a nationwide "party crashing tour," duping Fox News into believing that President Obama was bankrolling a Muslim museum, and getting people to believe that a town in Lousiana had banned twerking.)

Horner admits that he wrote the story regarding the faux Banksy at Lost Leaf for News Examiner, one of the websites that he helps run, that first appeared online on Saturday, February 22, and sparked off the prank. It also claimed that the street artist is "currently in Phoenix doing work and meeting with some of his mates."

The prank was a followup to one of Horner's previous stories from last year, which got a ton of coverage online, claiming that Banksy had been arrested in London. It definitely got people in and around the Roosevelt Row scene talking, many of whom were jazzed at the prospect of a Banksy piece appearing in Phoenix.

That includes Lost Leaf owner Eric Dahl, who tweeted the following after the prank story appeared online: "A banksy @TheLostLeaf ? I can die now."

(He wasn't the only one who was duped by the prank, as the staff of the Roosevelt Row Community Development corporation, which helps run the First Friday art walk, posted news of the faux Banksy on its Facebook page and even brought up a rumor that the street artist would be appearing at the Paint PHX event on March 7.)

The thrill didn't last, however, as Dahl tweeted a few minutes later that suspected it was a hoax as he and the Lost Leaf staff were unable to spy the Banksy piece. That's because it didn't exist.

In truth, no art work actually appeared on the Lost Leaf. The circulating image was made by Horner in Photoshop. He says he considered creating an actual graffiti piece with assistance from local artist JB Snyder (who was mentioned in the News Examiner article), had Dahl and the Lost Leaf staff not helped quash the hoax.

According to Horner, he pulled the prank because he lives near Lost Leaf and wanted to help bring attention to the bar.

"And I wanted to get them extra business," Horner says. "They always show my friend's artwork."

He admits to being dissapointed that The Lost Leaf staff didn't go along with the prank and help it last longer.

"So frustrating... that article and hoax was REALLY starting to take off, and the guy who you think would appreciate it the most FUCKS IT ALL UP," he says.

A post on Horner's Facebook account on Tuesday afternoon expressed similar sentiments:

"Hi, my name is Eric Dahl. I own The Lost Leaf. I could have had thousands of people come to my establishment and buy alcohol and enjoy my bar and gallery. But I ruined a great hoax about Banksy doing an original piece at my bar and lost out on thousands of dollars."

New Times was unable to reach Dahl for comment on the hoax.

Ultimately, Horner says that, like most of his efforts, everything was meant in good fun.

"It's just a fun story. I know everyone in the Phoenix art scene, so it makes them laugh and puts a smile on their face," he says.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.