A Highly Coveted Banksy Painting Offered by Fashion Icon Paul Smith Could Rake in $2.3 Million at Auction
The modified thrift store canvas will hit the block at Bonhams London.
A Banksy painting from the collection of fashion icon Paul Smith will head to the auction block at Bonhams London on June 29, estimated to fetch as much as $2.3 million. Smith bought the canvas, Congestion Charge (2004), from the artist’s 2004 pop-up exhibition “Santa’s Ghetto” in London and has held on to it ever since.
The painting comes from a group referred to as “Vandalized Oils” or “Crude Oils” that were made famous in 2005 at the London exhibition “Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin,” where visitors were forced to share the exhibition space with rats rented from a film production company. In these works, the artist riffs on Old Masters or modifies paintings found in thrift stores around London.
Congestion Charge comes from the latter group and shows a pastoral scene, with a barnyard and cows, over which he has painted a street sign indicating that congestion charging will be in effect in this “central zone” during certain hours. The sign satirizes the policy that had been instituted in London to reduce traffic during peak hours.
The painting “demonstrates Banksy’s indisputable and enduring currency as social commentator and contemporary artist,” said Ralph Taylor, Bomhams’s global head of postwar and contemporary art, in a press release. “Banksy’s ‘Vandalized Oils’ have consistently proven to be amongst the most valuable and highly coveted works in his oeuvre—and Congestion Charge is no exception.”
He added: “This painting is one of the first examples of his series which translate Banksy’s subversive interventions in urban spaces to the elite spaces of high art.”
Indeed, other “Vandalized Oils” have achieved some of the artist’s highest prices. Smith sold Sunflowers from Petrol Station (2005), a riff on Van Gogh, at Christie’s New York in November 2021; it went within estimate for $14.6 million, currently the artist’s third-highest price. An unknown seller’s Show Me the Monet (2005), meanwhile, presenting a trashed vision of the Impressionist’s garden, exceeded its $6.6 million estimate when it sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2020 for $9.9 million. That’s Banksy’s sixth-highest price at auction.
The artist’s current auction record is $25.4 million, for the painting Love Is in the Bin (2018), achieved at Sotheby’s London in October 2021. That infamous work had been offered for auction at the same house three years prior as Girl with Balloon, achieving $1.4 million, but was promptly partly destroyed by a shredder hidden inside the work’s frame.
Smith’s devotion to art is well known. A 2019 Sotheby’s video reveals him in his studio with works by Peter Blake, Shepard Fairey, David Hockney, and Patti Smith. He even served as guest artistic director for the exhibition “Picasso Celebration” at the Picasso Museum in Paris.
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