We estimate that in the last 20 years, Banksy has raised almost £30 million for charity. He may be the best-selling contemporary artist of all time, but Banksy’s work has, from the beginning, sought to serve a social purpose.
It’s widely known that Banksy is outspoken on many prescient social issues, including gang violence, homelessness, state surveillance and war, and his clever and politically charged murals and street artworks have appeared in symbolic locations across the globe from London to the West Bank. Alongside his public artworks, Banksy has also initiated numerous charity projects and fundraisers. Here’s a rundown:
In support of British healthcare workers during the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, Banksy shipped his work Game Changer to Southampton General Hospital in May 2020, (from where someone attempted to steal it), along with a note that read:
“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
The painting depicts a young boy wearing a facemask, playing with his new superhero: a nurse doll with a red cross on her apron, symbolically Batman and Spiderman have been ditched to the wastepaper basket to the side.
Game Changer sold for £16.8 million at Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale in London on 23 March 2021, exactly one year to the day of the UK’s first national lockdown. The painting was the most expensive Banksy artwork at auction at the time. Proceeds were used to support the wellbeing of NHS University Southampton Hospital staff and patients. Banksy continues to be one of few steady markets to escape the financial crisis of Covid-19, and for a good cause at that.
Our co-founder Ian Syer commented after the sale: “On such a symbolic day of national reflection, we should give thanks to two national treasures, our wonderful NHS for their selfless heroism and Banksy for his enormous generosity and foresight in capturing the nation’s mood, yet again cementing him as the most relevant artist of modern history. Game Changer is a new record and means the NHS stands to benefit to the tune of almost £17m, a truly spectacular result.”
Banksy donated three oil paintings spotlighting the European migrant crisis to raising money for a hospital in Bethlehem. Mediterranean Sea View 2017, as a tryptic sold for £2.23 million at the Sotheby’s evening sale From Rembrandt to Richter. All proceeds were donated to the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation and will be used to build a new acute stroke unit and the purchase of children’s rehabilitation equipment for the hospital.
This Banksy masterpiece has had an adventurous journey – it originally appeared on one of the exit doors of a theatre, Bataclan in Paris in June 2018, as a memorial to the victims of a terrorist attack by ISIS in 2015. The sombre image depicts a crying woman in white.
In 2019, the door with the artwork was removed with angle grinders by thieves, along with several other Banksy artworks that appeared across Paris in 2018.
Finally, in June 2020, the lost artwork, which is estimated to be worth millions, was found by Italian police in farmhouse’s attic in the Abruzzo region, near the Adriatic coast.
Banksy created a powerful mural at Christmas in 2019 in Birmingham, two reindeers pulling a bench with a homeless man -Ryan – sleeping upon it. A film accompanying the piece appeared on Banksy’s social media along with his praise for people giving Ryan some food and drink while they were making the video: “God bless Birmingham. In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter – without him ever asking for anything.”
The following day, it turned out Banksy has created T-Shirts and merchandise for a concert to raise money for homeless charities in Bristol, including The Wild Goose, 1625 Independent People, Feed the Homeless Bristol and Somewhere to Go.
The council was eager to protect the artwork and recognize its importance, however barriers couldn’t keep people from defacing the mural, and soon enough a red nose appeared on one of the two reindeers.
After it was protected by Perspex, the artwork eventually sold for £2,300 at Fellows Auctioneers in Birmingham with all proceeds going to Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS), an organisation helping homeless people in need in the UK.
For a project in 2019, Banksy designed door mats that were then hand-stitched from life-vests found on the local beaches by women in Greek refugee camps. Led by social enterprise Love Welcomes, this initiative has been helping refugees to earn a wage and re-discover their dignity at the camp, while also aiming to teach them skills that will later prove useful and help them find future employment.
The Welcome Mat editions were sold with all profits going towards supporting the camp and the creation of more jobs for women, protecting and sustaining families and supporting these important services within the community.
In December 2018, Banksy announced on his Instagram that he is putting his sculpture featuring an overloaded remote-control boat to help raise money for a charity helping refugees. The artwork originally appeared in Dismaland, Banksy’s ‘bemusement park’ project in the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare in the summer of 2015. After the theme park was dismantled, all the wood and structural elements were donated by the artist to The Jungle refugee camp in Calais to build refugee shelters.
His sculpture of the boat was up for grabs for anyone who made a minimum donation of £2 ($2.50) to Help Refugees charity. With the competition’s name echoing that of the artwork, being How heavy it weighs, participants were asked to guess the weight of the piece to the closest metric unit until the lucky winner was chosen. According to an official source at Choose Love – Help Refugees, Banksy’s campaign raised as much as £90,000 for the cause.
In September 2017, Banksy donated all funds raised by his work Civilian Drone Strike at auction – a total of £205,000 – to the Campaign Against Arms Trade and Reprieve.
The image depicts three Predator drones dropping bombs on a children’s drawing of a house, and was sold at auction through Art The Arms Fair. This week-long exhibition happened at the same time as the Defence and Security Equipment International Arms Fair in east London in the same week, which brought together many activists and protesters.
In April 2014, a Banksy mural appeared on the doors of a youth club in Bristol facing closure. Mobile Lovers depicts a couple embracing while, it’s been suggested, they are taking selfies. The mural was moved inside the club by its owner and available to view for optional donations, however, within days the police confiscated the work and handed it over to the council.
Banksy however officially handed over the work to the youth club’s owner in a letter, who in turn sold Mobile Lovers for an undisclosed sum to a private collector with all profits going to Broad Plain Working With Young People. The sale for over £400,000 was able to sustain the club, serving as evidence for Banksy’s commitment to providing support and space for youth, especially since the artist himself is also from Bristol and has shown continuous engagement for the city’s community.
Another one of Banksy’s famous works created in 2014 in support of homelessness is the oil painting entitled The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil. Banksy bought the original oil painting for $50 during his New York residency at Housing Works Charity shop and ‘vandalized’ or reworked it by painting a Nazi figure into the landscape.
The finished work was sent back to the charity shop anonymously with a letter explaining it was a Banksy original. It later sold at an online auction for $615,000 with all proceeds going to Housing Works Charity supporting the city’s homeless.
Banksy paired up with Greenpeace to produce the ‘Save Or Delete’ campaign in in 2002. This artwork aimed to highlight deforestation, features familiar characters from Disney’s The Jungle Book film, tied up and blindfolded against a destroyed jungle landscape.
The image was intended for use on posters, billboards and postcards by Greenpeace, which were also printed but eventually never put into circulation because of Disney’s policies. A version of the poster however is illustrated in ‘Banksy's Wall and Piece’, p. 161., and the print has also been featured and sold multiple times at auction.