The people behind the Oi YOU! Collection are George Shaw and Shannon Webster who, until they moved to New Zealand in 2009, were based in the UK.
After a spur of the moment shirt purchase led them to Banksy, they, for the first time, saw artwork that they really wanted to own.
They quickly discovered that most street artists sell artwork for internal walls to pay the bills and Banksy was no different.
In 2005 Banksy prints were freely available on line and cost very little. After purchasing a few prints they tracked down Banksy's management for something more unique.
Beyond their budget they agreed to make do with one car, took the plunge and bought a couple of classic Banksy canvases.
The street art scene in the UK was starting to hot-up and the then small but swiftly growing group of collectors that George and Shannon joined were seeking out the talent.
Banksy’s then manager, Steve Lazarides, opened his London gallery and offered up an almost endless stream of amazing exhibitions by great artists.
Beyond Lazarides, Elms Lesters, who had been supporting the best street and graffiti artists since the 80’s, became a regular haunt. The opening of the Black Rat Press soon followed as London started to emerge as street art’s epicentre.
All this led George and Shannon to artists like Faile, Micallef, Neate, Insect, Swoon, Choe, Os gemeos etc and their collection started broadening out.
Banksy’s ever increasing value on the secondary market and his insistence on keeping his prices affordable, meant that by 2006 there were tens of thousands gunning after each new print in editions of just a few hundred.
This was a problem for collectors but George and Shannon were helped by a bit of invaluable advice they were given when they first started collecting; ‘buy two prints from an edition as when the edition is sold out they increase in value and you can sell the second one to help fund new purchases’.
As prices boomed, they were in the fortunate position of owning duplicate artwork that was worth much more than they had paid for it and they used this to grow their collection.
A passion turned into an obsession and a major collection of street art started to take shape.
George and Shannon found themselves in the right place, at the right time with the right passion.
They were invited to the openings of all of the major shows in the northern hemisphere and each show they went to they collected postcards, posters and stickers. These were stored away in a drawer and it was only when street art became a global phenomenon that they realised they were sitting on a piece of rare history.
The jewel in the memorabilia crown was given to them by Steve Lazarides shortly after he opened his London gallery. When Shannon and George first visited the gallery with their two daughters, Steve very kindly gave them a Banksy Di-faced Tenner each.
The Oi YOU! Collection’s memorabilia is now one of the highlights of their shows.