A new day, a new record price for a Banksy artwork it seems. Game Changer became the most expensive Banksy painting ever sold at auction when it achieved £16.8million at Christie’s London on 23 March 2021, on the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, with proceeds going to benefit the NHS.
With underbidders from the Virgin Islands, Singapore and online, Game Changer eventually sold to a telephone bidder with Christie’s specialist Tessa Lord in the London saleroom. “It’s a game changer in every sense,” stated the auctioneer, Jussi Pylkkänen. Proceeds will be used to support the wellbeing of NHS University Southampton Hospital staff and patients.
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.”
What is the most expensive Banksy artwork at auction?
Game Changer, £16.8million
Banksy’s Game Changer raised £16,758,000 for the NHS when it was sold at Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale in London on 23 March 2021 – exactly one year after the UK’s first national lockdown. The price started at £1.6 million and skyrocketed as the 15-minute bidding battle unfolded, with the work eventually selling for almost seven times its £2.5million low estimate.
Banksy had donated the painting to Southampton General Hospital in May 2020, in recognition for the front-line workers’ tireless work during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. A reproduction of Game Changer now hangs in the same place at the hospital.
Watch Christie’s Game Changer auction:
Other Top Prices Paid for Banksy at Auction:
Devolved Parliament, £9.9 million
Banksy’s satirical painting of the House of Commons invaded by chimpanzees sold in the Sotheby’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale for £9.9 million on 3 October 2019. Spanning a huge 4 metres in width, Devolved Parliament was painted in 2009 and had a pre-sale estimate of just £1.5–2 million. The artist reacted to the result by posting a quote on his Instagram from art critic Robert Hughes which included the line, ‘But the price of a work of art is now part of its function, its new job is to sit on the wall and get more expensive’ along with the comment, ‘Record price for a Banksy painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn’t still own it.’
Watch Sotheby’s Devolved Parliament auction:
Love is in the Air, £9.2 million
This canvas of Love is in the Air made headlines ahead of its sale at Sotheby’s in New York on 12 May 2021 for being the first physical artwork sold at auction where the buyer had the option to pay in bitcoin, ether or US dollars. Estimated at $3-5million, it eventually achieved $12.9million (£9.2million). Sotheby’s announced a day after the sale that they accepted a cryptocurrency payment for the painting.
Watch Sotheby’s Love is in the Air auction:
Show Me The Monet, £7.55 million
At £7,551,600, Show Me The Monet became the second most expensive artwork ever sold at auction when it sold at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 21 October 2020. Banksy had written in 2005, the year he made the painting, that the “real damage done to our environment is not done by graffiti writers and drunken teenagers, but by big business… exactly the people who put gold-framed pictures of landscapes on their walls and try to tell the rest of us how to behave”. Fifteen years on, his critique remains as relevant as ever.
Watch Sotheby’s Show Me The Monet auction:
Forgive Us Our Trespassing, £6.3 million
Forgive Us Our Trespassing from 2011 sold to an anonymous Asian collector for HK$64.1 million (£6.3 million) after an eight-minute bidding battle at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on 4 October 2020. At 7m tall, the painting is among Banksy’s largest known canvases and is a reworking of his 2010 graffiti painting in Salt Lake City, Utah. Banksy invited over 100 students from Los Angeles’ City of Angels school to help tag the piece’s graffiti-covered stained glass windows.
Watch Sotheby’s Forgive Us Our Trespassing auction:
Subject to Availability, £4.6million
On this peaceful landscape of Seattle’s Mount Rainier National Park, painted by German-American artist Albert Bierstadt in 1890, Banksy has captioned in tiny letters at the bottom of the artwork: “*subject to availability for a limited period only” – a darkly humorous comment given that Mount Rainier is still an active volcano.
The painting sold for £4,582,500 at Christie’s in London on 30 June 2021.
Sale Ends Today, £4.3 million
Banksy’s satirical comment on our frenzied consumer society was perhaps lost on the buyer of this canvas, who paid more than double the estimated price at Christie’s in Hong Kong on 24 May 2021. Sale Ends Today was estimated at HK$21-28 million but eventually sold for $47 million (£4.3 million).
Original concept for Barely Legal poster (After Demi Moore), £2.7 million
In 1991, Hollywood star Demi Moore shocked the press with her heavily pregnant Vanity Fair cover. 15 years later, Banksy created this tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the photograph – replacing Moore’s face with his iconic monkey mask – and featured it in the posters for his landmark Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles. This canvas sold for £2,677,000 at Sotheby’s in London on 25 March 2021, beating works by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.
Laugh Now, £2.4million
This unique Laugh Now painting on metal was purchased at Banksy’s Barely Legal show in Los Angeles in 2006, and had remained with the same collector until it was offered at Sotheby’s in London on 29 June 2021. The auction house announced they would accept payment in British Pounds, ether or bitcoin for the artwork.
Mediterranean Sea View 2017, £2.23 million
To raise funds for a Bethlehem hospital, Banksy donated a set of three oil paintings spotlighting the European migrant crisis to Sotheby’s From Rembrandt to Richter evening auction on 28 July 2020. The tryptic, Mediterranean Sea View 2017, sold for £2.23 million. All the proceeds were donated to the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation and will be used to build a new acute stroke unit and purchase children’s rehabilitation equipment.
Laugh Now Panel A, £2.2 million
Created in the same year that the first Laugh Now mural was made for Brighton’s Ocean Rooms nightclub, this early painting sold for HK$24.5 million (£2.2 million) at Phillips in Hong Kong on 8 June 2021. It was the first time a physical work of art sold in an Asian auction was paid for using digital currency.
Sorry The Lifestyle You Ordered Is Currently Out Of Stock, £1.78 million
On 28 October 2020, the sale of Sorry The Lifestyle You Ordered Is Currently Out Of Stock at Sotheby’s in New York set a new auction record for a joint work by Banksy and Damien Hirst. The collaborative piece – which combines Hirst’s recognisable dot patterns with Banksy’s signature graffiti style – is the second work by Banksy and Hirst to go under the hammer. It has been over a decade since the pair’s last collaboration, Keep It Spotless, sold for £1.3 million at Sotheby’s in New York in 2008.
Monkey Poison, £1.6 million
- Stencilled in spray paint on a reproduced Old Master work, Monkey Poison from 2004 features Banksy’s most beloved character – the chimpanzee. Banksy has used this motif since the early 2000s and it is now arguably his most iconic. His other well-known works to feature chimps include Monkey Queen, Laugh Now and, of course, Devolved Parliament. Monkey Poison offers the dark humour and socio-political undercurrents typical of Banksy’s style: a cheerful, comic strip-like character in a quintessential pastoral scene, unaware of the poison he consumes. It is both a comment on the excess of fossil fuels in our modern culture and a pointed critique on animal cruelty. The work sold at Phillips in New York on 2 July 2020.
Keep it Spotless, £1.3 million
Despite much evidence to the contrary, there are still many out there who believe Banksy is none other than YBA sensation Damien Hirst. Though this theory has been discredited for a long time, the two did once collaborate on a piece called Keep It Spotless which features a woman dressed as a maid pulling up the edge of one of Hirst’s Spot paintings in order to sweep under it. This was sold for £1.3 million at Sotheby’s New York in 2008.
Girl with Balloon & Morons Sepia, £1.23 million
A double-sided composition, featuring Banksy’s famous Girl with Balloon and Morons prints framed together, is one of eight editions made by the artist in 2007. When the frame is held up against a light, both images are fused into a single composition – the girl is transported to the saleroom and the auctioneer appears to be reaching out to the balloon. The rare work sold for £1.23 at Phillips in London on 20 October 2020, close to double its £500,00-700,000 estimate.
Vote To Love, £1.15 million
Banksy first created Vote To Love for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition in 2018, submitting it under the pseudonym Bryan S Gaakman (an anagram of “Anagram Banksy”). The work – which features a spray painted heart over a UKIP poster, replacing its message to ‘Leave’ the European Union with ‘Love’ instead – was initially rejected by the committee. It was later accepted when Banksy resubmitted the work under his own name. Vote To Love sold for £1,155,000, almost twice its high estimate, to an American banker at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 11 February 2019. When asked why he made the purchase, he reportedly said, “What can I say, my kids love it.”
Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Gold), £1.1 million
In 2021, Banksy’s Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Gold) realised £1,104,000 at Sotheby’s Modern Renaissance: A Cross-Category Sale on 25 March. Achieving almost double its high estimate, the screenprint flew past the previous auction record held by a Banksy print, set by Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Purple) at Christie’s in September 2020 for £791,250. Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Gold) is of course based on Banksy’s original Girl With A Balloon murals and the painting that became Love Is In The Bin – but features a very rare gold heart balloon instead of the classic red version.
Love is in the Bin, £1.04 million
In October 2018, Banksy’s Girl With A Balloon went to auction at Sotheby’s. Just as the hammer came down at £1.04 million the painting began to self destruct, appearing to slip down inside the frame only to come out the other side in shreds, becoming a new work, Love Is In The Bin. The stunt was reported worldwide and Sotheby’s senior director Alex Branczik famously commented, “It appears we just got Banksy-ed”.