From illegal street art to multimillion-pound paintings – the transformation of the Banksy brand

 

 

ARTE Generali

 

Just weeks ago, Christie’s auction house in London set a new auction world record for a work by the artist Banksy, whose real name and identity are still a mystery, after decades of making art. Christie's sold a neatly 1 by 1 meter large, non-stencilled, black and white painting with the title “Game Changer” dated 2020, for a staggering sum of 16,7 Million Pound (including fees). This auction record is interesting for a number of reasons.

 

Most notably, it helped raise over 16 million pounds of funds for the National Health Service in Great Britain. The artist had “donated” the work last year to the Southampton Hospital to express gratitude for their hard work at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. Or to put it more correctly, the work appeared at the hospital and turned out to be by the notorious artist. Secondly, it reconfirms the desirability for works by Banksy, whose canvas paintings have been setting records over the past years nearly every time they came up at auction. Readers might still remember when in 2018 his painting “Girl with Balloon” started to shred itself during its auction sale, only to be renamed afterwards to “Love is in the Bin” and becoming the most notorious painting the artist has created so far. A year later it was his commentary on Brexit which appeared timely in an auction at Sotheby’s again. “Devolved Parliament” sold in the summer of 2019 for 10 million pounds; then a record for the artist’s work.

 

In the meantime, prices for prints by the artist are going through the roof, and that is not only in London but all over the world. So, Banksy’s works – if you acquired them cheaply - are a good investment. The market over the last years has proven that the artist isn’t only an art world trickster, but that his importance can’t be ignored by the established art world any longer. And this importance is likely here to stay. His works, interventions and political activism reflect our disturbing times, and Banksy uses his public persona – with an Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/banksy/) following for his official account of 11 Million – to great effect. But he also uses it to get serious messages across. His mural in Dover will for a long time remain the image of Brexit. He plays the art world and the art market like a master. He understands and responds to the public mood, he comments with public murals on current issues, he supports political causes very publicly and at times with huge sums of money; and he has now proven over and over again that he has a tight grip on the art market’s desire for valuable objects. Hence small paintings and a vast print production. He manages all this through his own studio production company Pest Control, having given up on gallery representation many years ago. Pest Control (https://pestcontroloffice.com/)  also authenticates the work, which is important as more and more fakes circulate. Banksy prints also set new records time and time again. Those who are interested should follow the regular online Banksy auctions that Sotheby’s and Christie’s are organising. At the latest one, which just closed on 18 March (https://www.sothebys.com/en/buy/auction/2021/banksy), not only were all works sold, but most of them exceeded their estimates. “Love is in the air” from 2003, in an edition of 250, sold for 214,000 Pounds, carrying an estimate of 50,000 to 70,000.

 

However, data analysis company Wondeur still urges caution. While indeed now an established artist, institutional recognition is only slowly catching up, a measure, the company regards as crucial to long lasting artist success. His work has not yet entered major museum collections, and for high values to be maintained, museum validation will be critical, as Sophie Perceval, one of the founders, points out.

 

Anyone who doesn’t want to jump to snap up one of these now very expensive prints, can indulge in a new French documentary on the artist. Directed by Seamus Haley and Aurélia Rouvier, “Banksy Most Wanted” is already streaming through different providers online and on television.

 

Link to movie trailer HERE

 

Written by our ARTE Generali author Stephanie Dieckvoss, London

(Image credit: Banksy - Game Changer © CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2021)