A History of Notable Banksy Artworks Sold at Auction
An anonymous street artist, Banksy first rose to prominence for his satirical stenciled art pieces in the 1990s. Though Banksy’s identity remains unknown to the public, his works have earned international attention. Over the years, a humorous take on politics has defined his work. His art often invites contemplation and action.
Banksy’s large mural work was first discovered on the walls of Bristol and London’s Shoreditch district in 1997. Titled The Mild Mild West, this large mural shows a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at riot police officers. Banksy’s controversial graffiti work became widely popular in London, where his signature style developed.
Banksy stands apart from his contemporaries, combining his own visual language with emotional meaning and slogans. Social issues, including politics, capitalism, war, greed, and hypocrisy, are recurring subjects in his works. Although Banksy mostly freehanded his early pieces, he started using stencils in his later career.
Over the last decade, the auction industry has seen a series of record-breaking sales of all types of Banksy works. Among them is Banksy’s Girl With a Balloon, which went to auction with Sotheby’s. Presented in October of 2018, the piece shows a girl reaching out for a red, heart-shaped balloon. Just as the painting sold for GBP 1.04 million (USD 1.45 million), a shredder hidden inside the gilt bronze frame started to whir. The canvas slid down only to reveal itself in strips. Banksy later renamed the piece Love Is in the Bin. The startling stunt made headlines worldwide. Banksy reacted by posting, “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge,” citing Picasso.
Sotheby’s sold Banksy’s Devolved Parliament painting at the record-setting price of £9.9 million (USD 13.8 million) on October 3rd, 2019. The piece offered at the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale became the most expensive Banksy painting ever sold at auction. Completed in 2009, the painting surpassed its presale estimate of £1.5 million to £2 million (USD 2.08 million – $2.78 million).
In 2020, Show Me the Monet became the second most expensive Banksy painting sold at auction, realizing £7.6 million (USD 10.5 million) during Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction. This price exceeded the high estimate of £5 million (USD 6.95 million). Joe Syer commented in MyArtBroker, “Banksy has proven to be one of the most resilient assets with prices up 83% since the beginning of . We’re experiencing unprecedented demand from our investors in 2020 with new and growing interest internationally, but especially from the Asian market.”
The limited number of paintings and prints available for private purchase influences the rising prices for Banksy’s artworks. However, Banksy’s growing market shows no signs of slowing down. His appeal has spread well beyond Britain and Europe, turning heads around the world.
Interested in more auction histories? Find Auction Daily’s survey of Jackson Pollock’s work.