Cameron gives Obama work by graffiti artist
Gift swap sees Banksy collaborator Ben Eine catapulted onto world art stage
A London graffiti artist who has worked with Banksy has been catapulted onto the international art stage thanks to David Cameron. The Prime Minister presented a painting by former tagger Ben Eine to Barack Obama on his first official trip to Washington.
Eine's painting, Twenty First Century City, which features a collection of multi-coloured letters, is valued at £2,500. In return, Obama gave Cameron a signed lithograph by the influential American pop artist Ed Ruscha.
Eine, 39, has previously admitted spending 20 years doing "hardcore" graffiti from the age of 14. He recently told the Observer: "I started out in the world of graffiti when I was about 14, because I wanted to be part of that hooded tracksuit gang thing. I did it pretty hardcore for 20 years - I've been arrested 15 or 20 times, and the last time I had a close escape from prison."
Now a full-time artist, Eine, a father-of-three, makes a living from his work with handmade screen prints selling from £100 while his paintings go for as much as £7,500. In recent years giant, multi-coloured spray-painted letters by Eine have also been seen adorning the shop shutters of East London as part of a community project.
Writing on his website yesterday, Eine said it had been a "weird day" because "David Cameron has given one of my paintings to President Obama in an art swap".
Other gifts from the Camerons to the Obamas included scented candles for Michelle Obama from British perfumier Miller Harris, and pink and purple Hunter boots for Sasha and Malia.
Obama, meanwhile, gave Samantha Cameron a gift basket including a baby blanket. The Camerons' daughter Nancy received a silver necklace adorned with White House charms while son Elwen got a personalised DC United football kit. The presents seem more personal than Obama's last gift for Gordon Brown – a set of 25 DVDs which turned out to be unplayable in the UK. ·