After 15 years in the industry, Banksy’s former agent is unexpectedly renouncing the gallery world. Steve Lazarides cited the “snobbery of the art world” and its money-driven agenda for his sudden departure.

Lazarides collaborated with Banksy for a number of years when he first started out in Bristol. As his driver, photographer and then his de facto dealer, he established a rare working relationship with the enigmatic street artist.

Speaking about his decision to leave, the art dealer explained that “the only reason I did it was to promote a subculture that was being overlooked, and that’s gone now.

Lazarides launched Lazinc, a contemporary art gallery in Mayfair, only two years ago with Qatari magnate Wissam Al Mana. The gallery sold artworks by notable street artists, including Banksy, Invader, JR, Rammellzee, and Vhils.

Yet it seems the shine of his new business venture has already been tarnished. “It’s got to the stage where [the gallery world] is about nothing other than monetary value and I just can’t work on those terms any more,” declared Lazarides.

I maintain that 75 percent of galleries will be gone within five years. It’s too expensive. [. . .] The only way for them to keep going is from secondary market sales and there’s only a finite number of people who can be flipping Warhols and Basquiats.”

As a trained photographer, Lazarides believed he “fell into the art world purely by chance” following a commission to capture Banksy’s work in 1997.

He captured Banksy’s “best years” when the artist was “free and unfettered” to express himself artistically. “He was full of piss and vinegar. He was young, he was angry, he had something to say,” said Lazarides.

The London-based dealer is now using his experience to make the art world more accessible to upcoming artists and art-lovers. Lazarides intends to sift through 12,000 photographs that he took whilst working with Banksy, which he will then sell for around £450 apiece and publish in a book titled Banksy Captured. He also hopes to set up a charity that will help introduce the art world to disadvantage youths.

Discussing his passion for art, Lazarides revealed “it really isn’t about the fame. Nor is it about the noise or the money or the unabashed. It’s about the love of art in all its forms and expressions. Art in its raw, uninhibited, uncovered, exposed state. Or rather beauty.”