Courting controversy at every turn, Banksy continues to be one of the most highly sought after artists in the world. And while he is largely dismissed by the critics, his work has enormous popular appeal, as demonstrated by the many column inches dedicated to his latest stunts as well as the many auction records he has achieved over the years. Here we take a look at some of the most impressive results for Banksy artworks over the years.
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.’
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.
Stencilled in spray paint upon a reproduced Old Master work Monkey Poison from 2004, is the second most expensive Banksy work ever to have sold via auction, and as with Devolved Parliament, it features the artists most beloved character – the chimpanzee. Banksy has used the monkey as a motif since the early 2000s, and it is now arguably his most iconic. Other works which demonstrate the role Banksy attributes to monkeys in his art are Monkey Queen, and Laugh Now. Monkey Poison depicts the cheerful comic strip-like character set in a quintessential pastoral scene unaware of the poison he consumes. It is, of course, both a comment on the excess of fossil fuels in our modern culture and a pointed critique on animal cruelty. Monkey Poison offers dark humour and socio-political undercurrents which are typical of the artist’s style. The work sold at Phillips in New York on 2 July 2020.
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.
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”.
With the rise of the internet and mobile phones, telephone boxes have become symbols of a now defunct way of life in Britain. One of Banksy’s few sculptures, Submerged Phone Booth appears to be a tongue in cheek comment on this loss, not just in daily life but also in popular culture. The work was sold for £722,500 at Phillips in 2014.
This oil on canvas series broke the record for a work of art by Banksy at auction when it sold for £636,500 back in 2008. The work depicts an experiment in which a chimp is expected to crack a series of safes to find a bunch of bananas. Instead of following the scientists’ test, however, this particular chimp decides to stack up the safes in order to escape the laboratory.
In 2009, the show Banksy Versus Bristol Museum, in which Banksy inserted a number of works into the institution’s permanent collection, opened to great acclaim. This work, which later sold for £506,500 at Phillips in 2014, prompted speculation that it was intended as a satirical comment on consumerism and the objectification of women. Commenting on the exhibition Banksy said, “Some of the fake historical relics I’ve inserted among Bristol’s permanent collection should be entertaining — you can’t tell what’s truth and what’s fiction. It’ll be like walking through a real-life Wikipedia”.
Perhaps one of Banksy’s most poignant artworks, Girl With A Balloon – now the subject of hundreds of prints as well as one shredded painting – was voted Britain’s most loved work of art in a 2017 poll. The work originally began life as a mural on Waterloo Bridge and was later reproduced on a wall in Shoreditch which was then sold at auction for £500,000.
Banksy’s take on what is perhaps one of the best known self portraits in western art history offers viewers a taste of the postmodern sense of humour which can be seen throughout his oeuvre. The painting, in a gilt frame, appears to be very close to the original, until you look closely and realise that the old master is looking at you with a pair of stick-on googly eyes. The work was sold at Phillips in 2014 for £398,500.
Originally made for the 2003 Blur album Think Tank this spray painting, stencilled on steel, depicts a couple wearing deep sea diving helmets, drinking wine and sitting at a restaurant table under a dripping pink coloured heart. It sold for £397,000 at Sotheby’s in 2013.
This September Banksy’s Girl With A Balloon – Colour (AP) Gold realised £395,250 and set the world record for a Banksy print and a European record for a work sold online at Christie’s in their aptly named sale ‘Banksy: I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t.’ The work is of course based on Banksy’s original Girl With A Balloon murals and the painting that became Love Is In The Bin.
Returning to the phone box once again, this installation was seen as both a violent attack on a British icon and a tongue in cheek satire on modern life when it was installed in London’s Soho Square in 2005. The work went on to realise £361,900 at auction in 2008.
Originally painted on the side of a pub in Brighton, the home of Pride, this mural of two policemen locked in an embrace quickly became one of Banksy’s most well known works. Seen to be denouncing authority, homophobia and toxic masculinity, it was celebrated by the LGBTQ+ community before it was controversially removed in order to be sold by the pub at auction for £350,000 in Miami. The work was replaced with a replica which was covered in perspex, to guard against (further?) vandalism.
Part of a series where Banksy appropriates and corrupts icons of western art history, this work takes a portrait of a lord by the English painter Thomas Beach and changes the hands of the sitter in the original painting in order to depict him giving the viewer the middle finger. This witty take on an old master realised £320,900 at auction when it was sold in 2007.