Banksy-Painting Sells for £16.75 Mn

A painting by the British street artist Banksy sold for a record £16.75 million ($23.1 million, 19.4 million euros) on Tuesday, with proceeds going to benefit state health service staff. 

The painting, “Game Changer”, sold to an unnamed buyer for £14.4 million plus costs — the highest ever for a Banksy painting

The oil painting shows a boy holding aloft a nurse doll with Batman and Superman figures in a bin.

It first appeared at Southampton General Hospital on England’s south coast, during the first wave of the global coronavirus.

The artist — who first emerged out of Bristol’s graffiti scene in southwest England in the 1990s

left a note with the painting thanking hospital staff for their work battling the pandemic.

“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens up the place a bit, even if it’s only in black and white,” he wrote.

Proceeds from the auction will go to NHS charities and a reproduction of the piece at the Southampton hospital.

The auctioneer hailed Banksy’s “incredible gesture” in donating the work.

“It is a Game Changer in every sense,” he said of the painting.

The auction price swiftly exceeded the pre-sale estimate of between £2.5 million ($3.5 million, 2.9 million euros) and £3.5 million.

Masked intermediaries talking into mobile phones relayed bids from around the world during the nail-biting sale.

The previous record auction price for a Banksy work in October 2019 was nearly £9.9 million at Sotheby’s auction house for “Devolved Parliament,” a painting showing parliament populated by chimpanzees.

Banksy-Painting Sells for £16.75 Mn

Symbol of Its Time

Christie’s said in a statement the painting was a departure from Banksy’s usual irreverent style and was instead “a personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.

“As artwork, however, it will remain forever a symbol of its time: a reminder of the world’s real game changers

The painting may also have a political subtext though, as it was donated shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson

told the public antibody tests could be a “game changer” in the pandemic, only to have experts water the idea.

Speaking in a video shared by Southampton Hospitals Charity earlier this month, staff at the Southampton hospital thanked Banksy for the painting and shared their enthusiasm for the work.

Steph Gurney, a senior nurse with the hospital’s Acute Medical Unit, said the appearance of the painting had come as a “real shock and a surprise” and that it “meant so much that a world-renowned artist would want to donate a piece of work to our hospital”.

Banksy has continued to create other works during the pandemic. In July 2020, disguised as a cleaner,

he spray-painted a series of rats encouraging people to wear face masks on the London underground transport system.

In December, he drew a woman sneezing on the side of a house in Bristol.

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