Show Me The Monet was bought by a telephone bidder, bidding with Patti Wong, Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. Bidding throughout the lot was slow and steady until the end, as the bids climbed well above the presale estimate of £3,000,000-£5,000,000. Our co-founder Joe Syer commented this evening:
“This record price for Show me the Monet solidifies the incredible year that the Banksy market has enjoyed. Banksy has proven to be one of the most resilient assets with prices up 83% since the beginning of the year. We’re experiencing unprecedented demand from our investors in 2020 with new and growing interest internationally, but particularly from the Asian market.”
With the natural world more damaged than ever, the sale of Show Me The Monet is a well-timed critique of how consumer society is contributing to environmental issues.
“Here Banksy shines a light on society’s disregard for the environment in favour of the wasteful excesses of consumerism,” says Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s European Head of Contemporary Art. “Recent years have seen seminal Banksys come to auction, but this is one of his strongest, and most iconic, to appear yet.”
But as Banksy stated in the run-up to his Crude Oils exhibition, “The real damage to our environment is not done by graffiti writers and drunken teenagers, but by… exactly the people who put gold-framed pictures of landscapes on their walls and try to tell the rest of us how to behave”. Given that Sotheby’s has flown Show Me The Monet between London, New York, Hong Kong and back in the space of a month for their viewings, the artist is not wrong.
In October 2005, Banksy briefly moved his art out of the streets and into a disused shop in Westbourne Grove, London, to hold his first conventional gallery exhibition Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin. He filled the small space with 22 reworked Old Master, modern and post-war paintings – all given a dark twist for the 21st century – along with 164 live rats to set the mood.
Among the “remixed” masterpieces were Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers as a dead bouquet, Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe updated with supermodel Kate Moss, and Claude Monet’s famous waterlily pond littered with two supermarket trollies and a traffic cone.
15 years after the Crude Oils exhibition, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in October 2020 was the first time Show Me The Monet came to auction. The painting was supposedly purchased from Steve Lazarides, Banksy’s then dealer, in 2005, and has remained in a ‘distinguished private collection’ ever since, until it was sold in 2020.
Money's Water Lilies are chosen by Banksy partly for their sheer fame and recognizability. Banksy often to selects well known imagery as the starting point for his work such that his end result—always a subversion or reimagining of what we think we recognise—is all the more shocking. His work aims to be a form of iconoclasm committed against popular taste and societal mores, so it is no surprise that in Show Me The Monet he picks one of the most popular artists in living memory to ‘vandalise’.
Yet Monet is likely only the collateral damage, not the target of Banksy's work, which takes aim at humanity’s devaluation of the natural world— through litter, overproduction and consumption and other forms of environmental destruction. Through the painstaking process of recreating Monet’s masterpiece, Banksy proves his own skill in mediums other than his usual spraycan, but we can also imagine him gaining a certain appreciation for Monet’s original genius. In all likelihood, while Banksy’s Show Me The Monet bears a negative message, it is also intended to pay implicit homage to Monet. Monet may be popular now, but like Banksy, he too was initially seen as too radical, and as a renegade of his generation. Moreover, much of the genius of Monet's water lilies lies in the artist obsessive observation of his garden as it was subject to change—due to daylight, seasonal and weather conditions—an approach that shows a deep sensitivity to the environment. Doubtless, Banksy invokes Monet’s sensitivity as model example as he calls for us to pay more attention to the environment.
So, how does Banksy’s Show Me The Monet shape up against his other top-performers. Physically, the work is smaller than other originals by Banksy; whereas Devolved Parliament is 2.5m x 4.2m wide and the artist’s largest known work on canvas, Show Me The Monet, also on canvas, measures in at 1.4m x 1.4m.
The impressive scale of the former is perhaps a factor in it retaining the all-time record sale price for Banksy’s artworks. Devolved Parliament more than quadrupled its £1.5–2 million estimate, selling for £9.9 million, when it was offered at Sotheby’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 3 October 2019. Show Me The Monet is also among the ranks of memorable Banksy sales, however, coming in at second place with its sale for £7,551,600.
Another factor in the success of Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, was doubtless the pertinence of its scathing satire of the House of Commons run by chimpanzees, given that Britain was due to leave the European Union at the end of October. The painting’s mockery of government as incompetent evidently struck a chord with the news of each new, rejected withdrawal deal. And where the topicality of Devolved Parliament’s 2019 sale——likely pushed its desirability up a great deal in that more specific epoch, Show Me The Monet’s sale performance is reflective of a still-growing appeal to a certain audience. Namely, it reflects the rising demand in the Asian market.
Overall, the news of Show Me The Monet’s impressive sale mirrors the explosion of prices for Banksy’s artworks since 2020. Although the record-breaking prices of Banksy’s original works are hard to match, their healthy out-performance of estimates speaks to the continually surprising value of all his works. In the print market, for example, an edition of Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Purple) more than doubled its high estimate in September 2020 and set a new auction record for a Banksy print.
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