British street painter Banksy chose Hell’s Kitchen – and a venue synonymous with (ahem) romance – when he was inspired to capture the essence of lost love.

Back in 2013, he was drawn to a roll- down security gate covering the main entrance to Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club during his month-long New York City residency. The work shows a lovelorn loner leaning in a doorway, clutching a fast-fading bouquet of flowers with their red petals fluttering to the ground. “Waiting in vain” and “at the door of the club” say the captions under two pictures of the piece on Banksy’s website.

Hundreds of fans flocked to the scene, just off the Westside Highway on W51st St, where the Hustler Club set up security guards to keep vandals from defacing the work. The club said it was locked up at 6:15am, but someone had come and hung a tarp over the gate two minutes later, then spent 43 minutes behind it.

Banksy’s month-long “Better Out Than In” project created a business opportunity for one Hell’s Kitchen local. Dean Landry, of Certified Graphics, the club’s neighbors on W51st St, said he spotted the piece while walking to work around 8am. He grabbed a camera and snapped some photos, then started hawking magnets and prints of the spray-painted image the same morning. “We were printing by 8.30am.” Landry said. The rush products were offered at $5 for a magnet, $20 for a print, and they got snapped up by hundreds of Banksy fans. Did you buy one?

At the time, Hustler Club marketing director Steve Karel said: “We’re honored that Banksy chose the Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club to share his art. While we’d love to leave the work in place, it’s required we lift the gate when we open for business. So after the public has the day to enjoy it, we will remove the door to keep it safe from vandals until we determine where it can be displayed in the future – hopefully inside of the club.” Earlier in 2013, a Banksy mural removed from the side of a London building sold for $1.1 million.

This picture shows the door being cut off and the work of art removed at 6pm, before the club opened for business. Where is it now? The Hustler Club didn’t respond to our calls.

This story originally appeared in W42ST magazine in February 2016.

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