Not too long ago, there was a time when Banksy‘s art would sit at art galleries unsold or sold for a few hundred dollars at best. But the times have changed dramatically over the last decade and there has been a series of record-breaking sales of his works. The growing cult following of this elusive artist, and the mysteriousness shrouded around his identity makes his work to be incredibly sought after. With a loss of faith in complex investment vehicles, it appears that, as Damien Hirst once bluntly commented, “people would rather put their money into butterflies than banks”. In the following list, we take a look at the ten most expensive pieces that have been sold at auctions throughout Banksy’s career.
Created in 2002 as a commissioned work for the Ocean Rooms Night Club in Brighton, Laugh now, Banksy’s witty take on Darwin’s Theory of evolution. is a stenciled work spraypainted in black and white on three pieces of board, one meter high and little over six meters wide in total. It depicts a row of ten, nine and a half to be exact, downtrodden monkeys standing on their back legs like humans, wearing sandwich sign boards, six of them reading “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. It was auctioned on November 12, 2013 at the Phillips auction house in New York and was sold for $400,000, reaching its highest estimated value.
One of Banksy’s most famous and highly celebrated murals, Kissing Coppers from 2004 was carefully removed from the wall of the Prince Albert pub in Brighton and auctioned by Fine Arts Auctions Miami on February 18, 2014. It reached the selling price of $477,000, just under its lowest estimated value of half of million dollars. This life-size, monochromatic stencil graffiti depicting a close relationship of two policemen, embracing and sensually kissing each other, was acquired by an anonymous buyer. After the auction, the piece continued to create controversy as the information emerged that this mural was heavily vandalized in 2006 and (successfully) restored by the staff working at the bar! Mural was removed and replaced with a replica in 2008 and then shipped off to the US to be sold.
Space Girl and Bird
Banksy’s piece Space Girl and Bird, created in 2000, was part of a series of designs, commissioned by the British band Blur for the cover of their Think Tank album. It is depicting a girl dressed in a Parka jacket and a deep sea diving helmet, gazing down at the yellow bird standing on her hand, with a dripping pink heart floating above them. This highly sensual stencil painting, made on steel using air brush technique, was auctioned on April 25, 2007 at the Bonhams auction house from London. It was sold to a telephone bidder from the US for the surprising price of $479,926, skyrocketing from its highest estimated value of $30,000.
Think Tank is another Banksy’s piece from 2003, a study commissioned for the Blur’s album cover artwork. This beautiful spray painting, stenciled on steel, depicts a romantic couple wearing deep sea diving helmets, drinking wine and sitting at a restaurant table under a dripping pink colored heart. It was auctioned at the Sotheby’s in London on February 13, 2013, and, after intense bidding, it was sold to an anonymous buyer for an astonishing hammer price of $516,120, fetching almost twice the highest estimated value.
Banksy’s subversive painting of Rembrandt, dated 2009, is a humorous and highly entertaining, “vandalized” reinterpretation of the old Dutch master’s self-portrait with the addition of attention grabbing, stick-on googly eyes, and executed in acrylics on large canvas. This painting shows good old lighthearted attitude Banksy is known for but it is painted in a very different fashion than most of his works. Banksy’s Rembrandt is a practical joke aimed to question preconceptions of differences between great, classic art and modern, urban art. It was auctioned earlier this year on 10th of February at the Philips London auction house. It topped the highest estimated price by more than a hundred thousand dollars selling for the hammer price of $541,761,
Vandalized Phone Box
On February 14, 2008 Sotheby’s from New York auctioned this Banksy’s sculptural graffiti piece, dated 2005, which caused quite a stir when it first appeared on the streets in Soho, London. Bent and broken British Telecommunications phone booth with a protruding pickaxe and blood pooling underneath it divided Londoners, sparking a passionate debate whether it is simply a case of vandalism or a piece of an artistic visual commentary. After such a rich, though rather short history, it is no surprise that famous Vandalized Phone Booth fetched $550,000, almost doubling the highest estimated price.
The Rude Lord
The Rude Lord is a bold and funny oil on canvas painting done in an old master style. Taken from a 18th century portrait by the English painter Thomas Beach, it is another great example where Banksy has corrupted traditional painting in the manner of the previously mentioned Rembrandt portrait subversion. Original portrait is provocatively altered to include a hand casually showing a rude gesture of raised middle finger. It was auctioned in original artist’s frame during the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 12th October 2007. The painting, dated 2006, was sold for the Hammer price of $550,314, exceeding its estimated price of around $400,000.
For his eight foot tall sculpture of Happy Shopper, made of birch faced ply and cast jesmonite in 2009, Banksy took a classic female museum statue and twisted it into a grim and sarcastic, in-your-face (anti)idol of consumerism, with her head weighed down by oversized sunglasses, price tags and hands full of shopping bags. It was sold to an anonymous bidder on February 10th, 2014, at Phillips, London auction house for a hammer price of bedazzling $689,514 (£420,000), fetching way over its highest estimated price of nearly half of million dollars.
Simple Intelligence Testing
Banksy created Simple Intelligence Testing in 2000, painting it on five pieces of canvas, together telling a story of a chimpanzee undergoing an intelligence testing and opening safes in order to find its bananas. The story ends by this especially clever chimpanzee stacking all the safes on top of each other and escaping the laboratory through the ventilation opening on the ceiling. Banksy executed this painting using oil on canvas and board. The painting was sold on February 28, 2008 during an auction at Sotheby’s in London, originally breaking the record for the most expensive Banksy’s piece by fetching an incredible price of $1,093,400 (or £550,000), with the highest estimated price set at “only” $300,000.
Keep it Spotless
With the highest estimated price set at $350,000, and the hammer price of mind-boggling $1,700,000, Keep it Spotless is an absolute winner of this list. Auctioned on February 14, 2008 during the Sotheby’s Charity auction in New York, amount of money paid for this piece of urban art caught everyone by surprise, making it the most expensive Banksy ever sold. Executed in spray paint and household gloss on canvas Banksy’s Keep it Spotless, created in 2007, was originally Damien Hirst painting which was defaced by Banksy. It depicts a spray painted Los Angeles hotel maid Leanne who is pulling up Hirst’s piece to sweep under the painting.
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