Phillips Will Hold a Selling Show of Banksy and KAWS in New York to Target a New Generation of Want-It-Now Buyers

Prices for the 20 works on view range from $25,000 to $4 million.

Banksy, Monkey Poison (2004). Courtesy of Phillips.
Banksy, Monkey Poison (2004). Courtesy of Phillips.

Banksy and KAWS dominated headlines last year. Now, Phillips is hoping to continue to cash in on the populist artists’ market clout.

The auction house’s first effort of the new decade will be a selling exhibition dedicated to the two artists. On view from January 14 through February 10 in New York, “Ten Monkeys and a Dolphin: Banksy & KAWS” will bring together 20 rare and lesser-known paintings, prints, and sculptures. 

Both Banksy and KAWS reeled in record-breaking, headline-making prices last year and drew admirers from outside the rarefied art-collecting community. Banksy’s DEVOLVED PARLIAMENT (2019) fetched $12 million at Sotheby’s London in October, while KAWS’s Sargent Pepper-meets-The Simpsons painting THE KAWS ALBUM (2019) brought in $14.8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April, nearly 15 times its high estimate. But Miety Heiden, Phillips’ head of private sales, says that those figures were largely anomalous to the larger trajectory of these popular artists’ markets. 

KAWS, <i>PIRANHAS WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPING</i> (2016). Courtesy of Phillips.

KAWS, PIRANHAS WHEN YOU’RE SLEEPING (2016). Courtesy of Phillips.

“We have seen two or three real outliers in prices, but all the rest are actually very much the same,” she tells Artnet News. Heiden notes that both established collectors and people who are just starting to invest in art for the first time are drawn to the two artists. 

“The market is very deep for both these artists,” she says. “We see more and more people coming into this market every day, but it’s still not at the price levels of Warhol or Basquiat, so it’s still very accessible for a big group of art collectors.” 

All 20 of the works in the show come from a single anonymous European seller—the same one Phillips teamed up with for its Banksy exhibition in Taipei last year. (Choosing not to disclose sale details, Heiden characterized the Taipei exhibition as “Phillips’s most successful event in the region ever”; four works in the Taipei show will also be offered in New York). 

Prices in the new show range from $25,000 to between $3 million and $4 million, notes Heiden, adding that because of the higher price tags, she doesn’t expect the show to sell out. Among the top items is Banksy’s Laugh Now (2002), an early work of a chimpanzee wearing a sign that says, “Laugh now because one day we’ll be in charge.”

Banksy, <i>Kids on Guns</i> (2003). Courtesy of Phillips.

Banksy, Kids on Guns (2003). Courtesy of Phillips.

The results of a show like this are becoming increasingly hard to predict, Heiden says. The way the market operates is changing rapidly, perhaps more so than ever before, and these two artists are at ground zero of that sea change.

“I’ve been in the art market for a long time—everything is moving much faster now,” Heiden says. “In the ’90s, we would not sell works made in the previous five years—that was an absolute no-no. Now, auctions regularly feature works made, say, the year before. It’s just normal.” 

“A lot of people accept art now just because of what they see,” she adds, alluding to the meteoric market rise of Banksy and KAWS. “They don’t necessarily do a lot of research or want to see the rest of the oeuvre. They just like something, they want to have it, and that’s it.”

KAWS, <i>UNTITLED</i> (2012). Courtesy of Phillips.

KAWS, UNTITLED (2012). Courtesy of Phillips.

“Ten Monkeys and a Dolphin: Banksy & KAWS” will be on view January 14 through February 10 at Phillips New York.


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