Sotheby’s Online Banksy Sale Just Made $1.4 Million, Proving That People Really Will Buy Banksy Under Any Circumstances

More than half the buyers were new to the auction house.

Banksy's Girl With Balloon (Pink). Photo: Sotheby's Ltd.
Banksy's Girl With Balloon (Pink). Photo: Sotheby's Ltd.

There are a handful of products that are truly recession-proof: soap, alcohol, coffins… and maybe Banksys?

Sotheby’s announced that an online auction of the anonymous street artist’s prints, which concluded Thursday, fetched £1.1 million ($1.4 million), exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £672,000 to £1 million.

All but one of the 25 lots on offer found a buyer and more than 85 percent of lots exceeded their high estimates, according to the house. (Importantly, final prices include buyer’s premium and pre-sale estimates do not, putting the final hammer total within expectations.)

More surprisingly, almost half the buyers—47 percent—were new to Sotheby’s, and 30 percent of bidders (though not necessarily successful ones) were under 40 years old.

Who knew that people stuck at home during a moment of historic global upheaval really just want to buy Banksys?

Banksy's <i> Gangsta Rat</i>. Photo: Sotheby's Ltd.

Banksy’s Gangsta Rat. Photo: Sotheby’s Ltd.

Top lots from the sale included two versions of the artist’s “Girl With Balloon,” the motif depicted in the painting that was notoriously shredded at Sotheby’s London in 2018. A version with a pink balloon achieved £375,000, the top lot of the sale; a second version with a red balloon made £106,250.

Many of the artist’s other popular motifs made appearances as well, including the “Gangsta Rat” (which, as the title suggests, depicts a blinged-out rodent) and “Di-Faced Tenners,” a lithograph of a £10 note with Princess Diana’s face.

Major auction houses have found Banksy—and in particular, Banksy’s prints—to be a lucrative way to lure new clientele, even before the global health situation ground most of the art market’s live machinery to a halt.

Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s organized online-only Banksy print sales last fall, and Phillips organized its own selling exhibition of Banksy and KAWS earlier this year. Sotheby’s previous Banksy sale, held in September 2019, did a bit better than this one: a white-glove auction, it brought in $1.9 million for 44 lots, above a high estimate of $1.2 million.

While Banksy originals can fetch millions at major evening sales—the artist’s auction record of $12.2 million was set at Sotheby’s London in October—the artist produces prints in editions of 600, 750, and 1,000, making his work available at a variety of price points. The lowest price at the recent Sotheby’s sale was £11,875, for Banksy’s black-and-white screen print Flag.

Who needs 3,000 rolls of toilet paper when you can own a Banksy to calm your nerves?


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