A trio of prints from street artist Banksy fetched $138,000 at a lively auction in Auckland – the first time a collection of his work has gone under the hammer in New Zealand.
In front of an inquisitive crowd of nearly 150 at the International Art Centre in Parnell, three limited edition prints were sold on behalf of a private Kiwi collector.
The unnamed collector bought the pieces in 2005 while living in London; at the time Banksy sold prints for around 60 pounds ($115).
The most sought after piece from 2005, Soup Can, sold for $52,000. Weston Super Mare and Golf Sale sold for $41,000 and $45,000 respectively.
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Initially, the crowd was somewhat subdued, but tension began to buzz when the first Banksy lot, Golf Sale, came under the hammer.
The 2003 print hit $20,000 and kept climbing when a buyer from the floor competed with a phone bidder in $500 increments until it reached its sale price.
A punter who raised his voice above the murmurs and suggested the process should hurry along was warned to keep quiet, or another outburst would be taken as a bid.
Golf Sale is among the first works Banksy publicly released. It is based on the world-famous photograph of a protestor standing in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square in 1989 after the Chinese military’s violent suppression of the Democracy Movement.
Banksy has been reported to have said the print paid tribute to those who dared to stand up to authority.
When the hammer went down on the final Banksy item, it was revealed two of the works went to New Zealand buyers, and Soup Can went to a phone bidder from the United Kingdom.
The auction went ahead without controversy, unlike Sotheby’s 2018 sale of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon which temporarily had the art world in bits.
After selling for 1.05 million pounds ($2.1m), the painting suddenly slipped through a remote-controlled shredder hidden in its frame by Banksy years earlier.
Banksy’s true identity has never been officially revealed despite wide speculation. The Bristol-born artist rose to fame with graffiti that appeared on buildings across the UK, often marked by deeply satirical undertones.
He continued to create art throughout the coronavirus pandemic, recently giving an English hospital a piece that honoured healthcare workers.
International Art Centre’s director Richard Thomson said it was a rare opportunity for New Zealanders to acquire a piece from “probably the most sought-after street artist in the world”.
“In fact, there may only have been one Banksy work ever offered for sale in New Zealand,” he said.
The auction items had created a buzz of excitement, Thomson said, prompting calls from around New Zealand and offshore.
The sale also included an assortment of Len Castle ceramics from the Ron Sang Collection and a collection of Toss Woollaston works, including a never before seen oil of Bayley’s Hill.