A Photo of the Back of Banksy’s Head Sold for Nearly Ten Times Its Estimate at Sotheby’s London

The photo by Chris Levine purports to depict Banksy's hooded head.

Chris Levine, Banksy [3D] (2017). Image courtesy of Chris Levine.
Chris Levine, Banksy [3D] (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and Sotheby's.

An elusive photograph of Banksy sold for £35,000 ($43,600) at Sotheby’s London yesterday—and it didn’t even show the anonymous British street artist’s face.

Banksy has been famously protective of his identity over the years, being careful not to reveal his face—although some alleged video interviews from early in the artist’s career have surfaced in recent years. The prevailing theory is that Banksy is actually one Robin Gunningham, who, like the artist, hails from Bristol.

Unfortunately, the portrait at Sotheby’s isn’t offering any further clues. The image, by British photographer Chris Levine, claims to show the back of Banksy’s head, clad in a hoodie. One of just six lots on offer in the online sale “Chris Levine: Be Light,” the work, titled Banksy [3D], carried a pre-sale estimate of just £3,000–5,000 ($3,700–6,200).

The artist made four prints of the image, and the other three belong to Banksy, Levine, and the musician Robert Del Naja, according to the Art Newspaper.

Lest you doubt Levine’s access to high-profile figures like Banksy, the sale’s other lots included a photo of Kate Moss and a 2004 portrait of the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II, Lightness of Being (2018), taken in celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Island of Jersey pledging allegiance to the crown. The archival inkjet print, embellished with tiny Swarovski crystals by the artist for his own personal collection, sold for £75,000 ($93,500), while the Kate Moss image brought in £25,000 ($31,100).

Chris Levine, Lightness of Being (2018). Photo courtesy of the artist and Sotheby's.

Chris Levine, Lightness of Being (2018). Photo courtesy of the artist and Sotheby’s.

According to the artnet Price Database, Levine’s record at auction is £187,500 ($234,023), achieved for another print of Lightness of Being, sold at Sotheby’s London in 2017. The print of the work sold this week at Sotheby’s is the artist’s largest version of the image.

Banksy’s auction record is $1.87 million, set at Sotheby’s New York for Keep It Spotless in 2008. But that could be toppled this December when Sotheby’s London sells the artist’s 2009 work Devolved Parliament, which sees members of parliament turned into chimpanzees, for upwards of £2 million ($2.5 million).


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