A fter nearly getting caught by the British Transport Police while trying to paint ‘LATE AGAIN’ on the side of a passenger train, street artist Banksy realised he needed to cut his painting time in half or give up. It was then that he found the process that would become his signature style, stencilling. Marked by dark humour, satire and political commentary, his colourful multi-layered stencilled works appear unexpectedly in every corner of the world. Stunts like the shredding of Girl with Balloon during October’s Contemporary Evening Sale, the installation of his Mona Lisa in the Louvre in 2004, and his impromptu stall in 2013 in Central Park have heightened his profile amongst collectors across all media. A number of his iconic works have been published as editioned screenprints, some of which will be offered in Sotheby’s upcoming Made in Britain sale, taking place on the 20 March.
This sale offers first-time and established collectors the chance to acquire works by the artist at a wide range of price-points. Starting with a very attractive estimate of £3,000–5,000, Grannies, 2006 is a humorous and vibrant screenprint depicting two elderly ladies knitting jumpers that read ‘Punk’s Not Dead’ and ‘Thug For Life’, offering a critique of the generational alienation many seniors are subject to.
Bomb Hugger, 2004, with an estimate of £15,000–20,000, is a screenprint from Banksy’s early career, and demonstrates he has been a long-time critic of warfare. The image depicts a girl hugging a deadly weapon, exploring the dichotomy between love and innocence, violence and war. This image appeared on a mural in Brighton in 2003 and is illustrated in Banksy’s book Wall and Piece accompanied by the caption, ‘I like to think I have the guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no one else believes in – like peace and justice and freedom.’ (Banksy, Wall and Piece, p. 24)
We are also delighted to be offering two impressions of Banksy’s most renowned subject, Girl with Balloon, 2004. Girl With Balloon first appeared as a mural on Waterloo Bridge in 2002 and has subsequently emerged in several other locations. Girl with Balloon, which has an estimate of £40,000–60,000 is an emotive image that illustrates hope and desire in contemporary life. On the wall, it was set in deliberately dull surroundings to reinforce its meaning. This image has come to be the poster-child for the artist’s work and an icon of global street art.
Other works by Banksy in the sale include Queen Vic, 2003 (estimate: £3,000 – 5,000) and Grin Reaper, 2005 (estimate: £12,000 – 18,000). All of these highly sought after prints are great examples of the artist’s work tackling the moralities of modern culture through urban art, which have made him one of today’s most relevant street artists. As he puts it, ‘Nobody ever listened to me until they didn't know who I was.’ (Banksy, Wall and Piece, p. 13)