Perhaps the most elusive artist in history, Banksy is an unknown individual who specialises in street art, graffiti and stencilled pictures. Managing to keep his identity secret from the public, Banksy produces alternative artworks that are often displayed in public areas around Britain. Much of Banksy’s work is there to promote various political and social ideas that are often anti-establishment. With the art of Banksy carrying a gritty and urban feel he is known as an artist for the people, in particular the working class which sets him apart from other, more conservative artists. The growing cult following of Banksy and the mysteriousness shrouded around his identity makes his work incredibly sought after. It isn’t very often that his work goes on sale to the general public and when it is it is usually for a charity event. In this article I look at the 20 most expensive pieces that have been sold throughout Banksy’s career.
20. Corrupted Oil – $249,249
The piece, created around the year 2000 was sold at Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Day Sale in October 2008. The piece is a combination of a serene oil painting of a picturesque woodland scene over which is a spray painted apache helicopter. This is just one of many of Banksy’s ‘Corrupted Oil’ collection.
19. You Told That Joke Twice – $266,061
First showcased by Banksy in his hometown of Bristol in 2000 it is a favourite amongst his fans for the trademark depiction of aggressive police force which is mocked by the farcical arrest of a clown. Sold at Christie’s in 2010.
18. Untitled (Happy Coppers) – $286,217
The works of Banksy show a genuine fascination and perhaps repugnance for police, particularly riot police. This work illustrating a child like smiley face drawn onto two armed policemen sold for $286,217 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction in 2008.
17. Monkeys – $286,829
Another trademark of Banksy’s is the stencilled monkey. The artists fascination with the monkey has lead him to depict many humans as the primate including the queen of England. Often in the drawing the monkey will have a sign around its neck with a personal message from Banksy, here it is ‘Keep it Real’. Sold for $286,829 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day in London in 2007 the piece was only estimated to sell for about $55,000.
16. Think Tank – $307,237
One of the more recognisable of Banksy’s pieces this art work is part of a collection commissioned by the band Blur for their album ‘Think Tank’. The piece was created by using stencil and spray paint on a solid steel background.
15. Mona Lisa – $334,914
Other versions of the tampered masterpiece feature Mona Lisa holding a bazooka and her mooning the public. Sold for around 6 times of the estimated value.
14. Untitled (Laugh Now) – $342,995
Another of the artist’s famous monkey slogans sold in 2007 in London.
13. Police – $346,840
Many of Banksy’s works carry a social and political message. Anarchism in particular is promoted by Banksy along with anti-War, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, anti-authoritarianism, nihilism, and existentialism.
12. Warning Sign – $361,199
One of the more controversial pieces by Banksy, here enamel spray is used on an actual traffic sign and presents an obvious depiction of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York five years before he completed the piece.
11. Pie Face – $382,140
‘Pie Face’ by Banksy is a clear mockery of the old fashioned portraits of the upper class that the artist works to oppose. Sold at Sotheby’s London in 2007.
10. Ruined Landscape – $385,000
Contributed to the charity RED this Banksy work features a rustic, picturesque painting of the English countryside with the slogan ‘This is not a photo opportunity.’
9. David – $416,742
One of Banksy’s more adventurous pieces, an alternative sculpture of Michelangelo’s David made from fibreglass, enamel and wax. Just one of the few sculptures made by Banksy.
8. Laugh Now – $449,349
Another of Banksy’s slogan wearing Monkey’s, this time in a long line of apes side by side holding the message. Originaly created as a wall mural in a Brighton nightclub the piece was sold in London at Bonhams Urban Art in 2005 in London.
7. Queen Victoria – $478,095
A move which very much annoyed British Royalists Banksy created this image of Queen Victoria in all her lesbian glory in 2002. Six years later the artwork was sold at its highest price.
6. Insane Clown – $481,165
This stencilled picture of a maniacal, gun wielding clown sold in London at Phillips de Pury auction in 2008.
5. Space Girl and Bird – $575,813
Part of the infamous ‘Think Tank’ collection this image is seen as one of Banksy’s more poignant works. The combination of the small girl in a deep sea diving helmet holding a yellow bird helped the stencil drawing sell for a staggering amount of money.
4. Vandalised Phone Box – $605,000
Most probably the most famous of Banksy’s sculptures featuring a traditional red British phone box that has been bent in two with a pick axe wedged into the middle. Throughout his work Banksy has used the iconic phone box often. Sold in New York for the RED charity in 2008.
3. The Rude Lord – $658,025
Based on a real portrait of English painter Thomas Beach from the year 1776 which had been altered by Banksy in order to showcase a casual raise of the middle finger. Another in the series of Banksy’s corrupted oil pieces.
2. Simple Intelligence Testing – $1,265,120
A five part piece depicting an especially clever monkey who uses the safes from an intelligence test to his advantage by stacking them on top of each other to form his escape from the laboratory. Originally broke the record for the most expensive Banksy piece when sold in February 2008.
1. Keep It Spotless – $1,870,000
The most expensive Banksy piece to ever be sold went for $1,870,000 in December 2008 at Sotheby’s RED charity auction. The spotted background of the piece is originally an artwork by Damien Hirst who is a controversial modern artist. Banksy used this image to spray paint on a woman sweeping under the painting.