A timeline of our five favourite moments…
James Cauty’s Stamps of Mass Destruction
Lawrence’s career is defined by his lack of fear when it comes to being provocative. In whatever guise, all of Lawrence’s galleries have prioritised provoking emotions, whether good or bad.
No time was this attitude more apparent than back in 2003, when Lawrence made headlines for selling anarchist artist, James Cauty’s, Black Smoke: Stamps of Mass Destruction Legacy Set. This series of three silkscreen prints depicted stamps featuring the usual image of the Queen, doctored so she was wearing a gas mask beneath her crown.
Back in 2004, Lawrence held ‘Pop’ – one of the first urban art gallery shows of its kind. The show ran for three weeks and featured work from various anti-establishment artists, including James Cauty, Jamie Reid, and Banksy. In fact, the event was one of the first to showcase the work of the mysterious street artist who would go on to take over the art world.
The Pop show was a major turning point for the gallery, not only becoming a springboard for selling thousands of Banksy pieces, but also in shaping the gallery’s support of provocative art, its eye for spotting new talent, and prioritising group shows that bring people together and getting people interested in art.
2007 and 2010
Banksy prints stolen
After launching Banksy onto the international scene in the 2004 Pop Show, Lawrence and his galleries soon got a little unwanted attention for stocking the highly sought-after works of art…in the form of people who had no intention of paying.
In 2007, ten prints worth £10,000 were stolen from the Brighton gallery. Two thieves struck in two separate late night robberies, smashing their way into the gallery on Bond Street and making away with pieces including, Gangsta Rat, Welcome to Hell, Virgin Mary, Morons, Jack & Jill, and Napalm.
In the 2010 smash and grab, two thieves (the man and woman pictured above) used a street sign to smash through the gallery window and got away with two pieces, Happy Choppers and Nola (Grey Rain) worth a collective £16,000.
2007 was a strong year for artistic controversy on the streets of Brighton, again courtesy of Lawrence and James Cauty. This time, Cauty’s The Rize and Fall of the Portslade Massif show took place at Ink’d – Lawrence’s exhibition focused gallery which used to be located on North Street.
To publicise the show, the artist daubed ‘Portslade Massif’ on the front of the gallery in white emulsion. Later that same night, the council mistook the art for vandalism, and amid fears it might spark gang violence, they cleaned off the slogan as the city slept.
The council’s move hit the headlines, as far afield as The New York Times, as critics debated the difference between art and vandalism.
Lawrence featuring on The Apprentice
Back in 2012, Lawrence was invited on to The Apprentice’s sister show, The Apprentice: You’re Fired, presented by Dara O’Brien.
That week on Alan Sugar’s infamous series, the teams were tasked with co-ordinating a Pop-Up gallery showcase for artists like Pure Evil and Copyright, and Lawrence was there to offer his expert opinion on how they performed. You can watch his critique here.