Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


B. 1974
vandalised oil painting in artist’s frame, mounted on board
230.5 by 206 cm. 90 3/4 by 81 1/8 in.
Executed in 2009.
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This work is accompanied by a Pest Control certificate.


Pest Control Office

Private Collection (acquired from the above)

A gift from the above to the present owner in 2011


Bristol, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Banksy versus Bristol Museum, June - August 2009

Catalogue Note

Vandalism lies at the very core of the world’s most renowned street artist: Banksy. Although known for his anti-establishment beliefs, in recent years Banksy has been paradoxically embraced by the establishment and his unconventional practice is now highly sought after and critically contested. In the present work, Banksy engages a direct dialogue with art history via an unapologetic appropriation of Guido Reni’s 1621 masterpiece Bacchus and Ariadne (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Titled Bacchus at the Seaside, Bansky’s version is a sardonic take on Ovid’s myth – a canonical subject that has been repeated and re-invented in paint many times over, perhaps most famously by Titian, whose version can be seen in The National Gallery in London. In Banksy’s own incarnation, the Ovidian tale of Ariadne’s plight and Bacchus’s amorous advances barely registers with the viewer; rather, it is in the act of appropriation, defacement, and vandalism that Banksy makes his artistic statement. Part of the series of vandalised oil paintings, this work was exhibited alongside other examples – including adaptations after Velzaquez's Rokeby Venus (1644-48) and Millet's Gleaners (1857) – at Banksy's 2009 takeover of the Bristol Museum. 

Employing an enlarged painted replica of Reni’s original, Banksy has cut out the faces of the two Ovidian protagonists and introduced a fluorescent traffic cone that, somewhat phallically, shields Bacchus’s genitals. The result is utterly indebted to British seaside humour – its bawdy postcards, kiss-me-quick hats, and arcade amusements. Monumental in scale and far bigger than the Renaissance original, the present work takes the form of a high-art ‘Head in the Hole’ or ‘Peep-through’ board. Readily found at seaside amusement parks, these painted boards typically depict faceless caricatures such as ‘Strong John’, ‘Thin Tim’, or ‘Big Bertha’, dressed in bathing suits and cavorting at the beach. Having enlarged Reni’s original, introduced a seditiously positioned traffic cone, and removed the faces in the manner of a ‘Head in the Hole’ seaside board, Banksy downgrades and defaces the bourgeois conceit of classical painting in a manner that is entirely beholden to the legacy of Marcel Duchamp.

In 1919 Duchamp drew a moustache and goatee on a cheap postcard reproduction of the world’s most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Titled, L.H.O.O.Q. this work launched an attack on traditional art and bourgeois taste. The salacious pun of the work's titular acronym (when pronounced these letters sounds similar to the vulgar French expression ‘there is fire down below’) and Duchamp’s masculinisation of classical female beauty poked fun at establishment ideals, particularly the bourgeois cult of Jocondisme that was rife during the early Twentieth Century. Building on this controversial Dadaist legacy, Banksy ridicules the respected. Herein, traffic cones appear frequently and comically in his work. Undoubtedly inspired by the custom of defacing public statues by adorning them with traffic cone hats, Banksy uses these ubiquitous utilitarian objects to denigrate symbols of cultural refinement. As tremendously deployed in Bacchus at the Seaside Banksy is a master of surprising juxtapositions; using humour and art historical acumen Banksy undercuts the elite to elevate the proletarian.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction