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 all kinds of works by Banksy.
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”.
We take a look at the most expensive Banksy artworks that have been sold at auctions throughout the artist's career, from least to most expensive.
Editors’ Tip: Banksy. You are an Acceptable Level of Threat and If You Were Not You Would Know About it
Updated 2017 edition. The single best collection of photographs of Banksy’s street work that has ever been assembled for print. If that isn’t enough there are some words too. You Are An Acceptable Level of Threat covers his entire street art career, spanning the late '90s right up to 2016. This new edition includes his groundbreaking ‘Dismaland’ show, the Calais refugee crisis wake-up, as well as new works from Gaza and Bristol. Also featuring the controversial ‘Cheltenham Spies’ in addition to ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, ‘Art Buff’ and the spectacular ‘Mobile Lovers’ which appeared outside Bristol Boys Boxing Club. 240 pages of iconic imagery from Los Angeles to Lewisham (and everywhere inbetween), including many images never before seen.
Banksy's artwork 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 stencil painting by Banksy, made on steel using the airbrush 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 piece by Banksy 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 13th, 2013, and, after intense bidding, this Banksy painting 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 artwork 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 in February 2014 at the Phillips London auction house. It topped the highest estimated price by more than a hundred thousand dollars selling for the hammer price of $541,761.
In a rather rare collaborative piece, Banksy teamed up with graffiti artist Inkie in order to cover a 10-meter-ling trailer with an interesting painting.
Silent Majority was created in 1998 (at Glastonbury Festival, no less), but it wasn’t until 2015 when it was first offered at auction - the approval of the artist’s team at Pest Control was long-awaited.
The artists approached the owners of the trailer and asked if they could paint it over. Three days later, the image was born - it depicts the era of the mid-1990s, when the free party movement was quite popular. There are seven figures, dressed as soldiers, an inflatable raft, some helicopters, and a quote saying: “It’s better not to rely too much on silent majorities.. for silence is a fragile thing…one loud noise and it’s gone.”
Of course, the graffiti bomb piece belongs to Inkie. In 2015, at Digard Paris, the piece was sold for $550,000.
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 is a bold and funny oil on canvas painting done in an old master style.
Taken from an 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.
The 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.
Throughout his career, Banksy's relationship with law enforcement has been understandably difficult. A striking early example of what would become Banksy's most iconic motifs, Untitled (Fuck The Police) from 2000 shows a tense police officer who has drawn his baton set against a stark white background. "Fuck the police" is written in crude red letters on the wall behind him. Rendered in a simple but effective way, the image possesses a visual immediacy and clean aesthetic that is key to its popularity.
This Banksy artwork was sold on October 3rd, 2019 at Bonhams London during their Post-War & Contemporary Art for $561,238.
Auctioned by Sotheby's London during Contemporary Art Day Auction on March, 8th, 2018, the work's highest estimated price was $349,728 but it reached the hammer price of amazing $587,544.
This playful work is stenciled in the act of a dynamic gesture, depicting a monkey in the instant before a violent explosion. Since the detonator is attached to the bananas, the monkey appears to be destroying what he needs in pursuit of what he thinks he needs. In this rather symbolic work, Banksy uses the animal which anthropomorphizes upon depiction, reminding us of close analogies between primate and human behavior.
First appearing as a six-meter long spray painting in Brighton, Laugh Now on Palette portrays a forlorn monkey, wearing a sandwich board bearing the script “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. Along with the rat, the monkey is one of Banksy’s most frequently used animal figures. The artist uses animals as didactic figures in his critical social commentary, showing in caricature the nature of humankind. As Patrick Potter wrote, these images "evolved from the kind of cartoonish carnival of Banksy’s animal army to controlled irony, designed to reveal the foolishness hidden in plain view in our society’s values.”
The work was sold on November 15ht, 2019 at Sotheby's New York during their Contemporary Art Day Auction for $764,000.
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.
Mona Lisa is of course Banksy’s interpretation of one of the most familiar faces in art’s history - only in his rendition, she is stenciled, has a target on her forehead, and is holding a rocket launcher. It is dating back to 2000, a prolific period in the artist’s career which had then started to really take off. Mona Lisa then became a recurring topic for Banksy as well, perhaps most notably in 2004 when he hung one of his own versions of the painting in the Louvre, replacing the subject’s face with a yellow smiley.
The work was sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London in June 2019, fetching $915,013 with buyer’s premium.
The work Bacchus At The Seaside was auctioned by Sotheby's London during Contemporary Art Evening Auction on March 7th, 2018. It had the highest estimated price of $489,553 but was sold for impressive $769,298.
In this work, Banksy engaged in a direct dialogue with art history by appropriating Guido Reni’s 1621 masterpiece Bacchus and Ariadne. A sardonic take on Ovid's myth, Banksy's version makes an artistic statement through the act of appropriation, defacement, and vandalism. The work depicts two Ovidian protagonists with their faces cut out, introducing a fluorescent traffic cone that, somewhat phallically, shields Bacchus’s genitals. The result evokes painted boards that can be found at seaside amusement parks in Britain which typically depict various faceless caricatures.
Executed in 2006, Submerged Phone Boot features a quite faithful replica of the world-famous red phone booth used in the UK, emerging from the cement pavement.
Following the artist’s witt and humor, the artwork is a comment on what was once a great success and a trademark of the city - the phone booth became a part of the country’s culture and has been present in many movies, comic books and tv shows, for instance.
But where is it now?
Well, Banksy’s phone booth is in the arms of the buyer who was able to pay $960,000 for it at a Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg auction in 2014 - quite possibly after seeing it at the 2006 Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles - one which intended to draw attention to the legal aspects of graffiti art and was billed as a “three-day vandalized warehouse extravaganza.”
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. It 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.
Based on a mural graffiti from 2002, the Banksy's acclaimed Girl With Balloon depicts a young girl letting go of a red heart-shaped balloon. One of his most recognizable images, the piece was even voted as the voted Britain’s most popular image in 2017.
The work was offered at Sotheby's London during their Contemporary Art Evening on October 5th, 2018 and it reached the hammer price of the stunning $1,135,219, even though the highest estimate was $395,624.
However, the buyers and the audience were in for a surprise, since the piece started to self-destruct through the shredder hidden in the frame before the very eyes of the attendees. The visitors were quite surprised yet entertained and following the sale, Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art, simply stated:
It appears we have just been Banksy’ed.
Shortly after, on his Instagram profile, Banksy posted the photograph of the incident with the caption "Going, going, gone..."
Banksy’s Vote to Love from 2018 is an altered "Vote to Leave" placard in which the “o” of love has been replaced by a heart-shaped balloon patched up with crisscrossed plasters. The balloon appears as if it drifted in front of the placard's slogan, altering the word "leave" to "love". To create the work, Banksy defaced a found "Vote to Leave" placard from the UK’s 2016 Brexit campaign, led by UKIP’s then-leader, Nigel Farage. With its striking simplicity and raw immediacy, Vote to Love offers a message of optimism at a time of increasing divisiveness in global politics.
The work was sold on February 2nd, 2020 at Sotheby's London during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction for $1,241,583.
With the highest estimated price set at $350,000 and the hammer price of mind-boggling $1,700,000, Keep it Spotless is the silver medalist of this list.
Auctioned on February 14th, 2008, during the Sotheby's Charity auction in New York, the 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.
Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn't still own it.
This is what Banksy himself commented on the news which broke yesterday at Sotheby's Contemporary Art auction in London - the artist’s Devolved Parliament was sold for $12,142,893, breaking his previous record multiple times. Should we also add that the painting was estimated at $2 million?
While the price might be, well, exaggerated like the rest of the art market prices these days, the fact that the painting sold and made headlines really isn’t that surprising. First of all - it’s Banksy, and even the most banal thing he does will end up written about a lot. Secondly, Devolved Parliament is the hot topic nowadays, and for a Britain in turmoil especially. This 250 by 420 cm oil on canvas depicts the House of Commons filled with chimpanzees in a state of madness. The work was exhibited in Banksy versus Bristol Museum exhibition in 2009, the same year it was made, and it would appear that its poignant commentary is more relevant now than it even was then.
Editors’ Tip: Planet Banksy: The Man, His Work and the Movement He Has Inspired
Banksy is the world's foremost graffiti artist, his work adorning streets, walls, and bridges across nations and continents. His stencil designs are instantly recognizable and disturbingly precise in their social and political commentary, flavored with subtle humor and self-awareness. More popular than ever, Banksy has spawned countless imitators, students, and fans alike, his fame—although unlooked-for—inevitably transmitting his ideas and work to the international arena. Highlighting both the relevance of Banksy's work and how his impact has continued to spread, this book brings together some of the very best pieces of art from all corners of the world that have been inspired by Banksy, as well as some of Banksy's own innovative, profound, and controversial work. Showcasing graffiti with a range of topics and coming from a variety of inspirational sources, this book provides an overview of how the man's work is changing the face of modern art, as well as that of the urban landscape.