Record price at auction for a work by Banksy to benefit the British health service

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A work by British street artist Banksy putting caregivers in the spotlight was snatched up at the auction at a record price of nearly 20 million euros, which will be donated to the British health service, strained by the coronavirus pandemic .

The street artist Banksy has raised nearly 20 million euros for the British public health service, strained by the coronavirus pandemic, by auctioning, Tuesday March 23, a table that puts caregivers in the spotlight. ‘honor.

Initially estimated at between 2.5 and 3.5 million pounds, this black and white work entitled “Game Changer” was finally sold at Christie’s for more than four times the price, at 16.75 million pounds (19.45 million euros).

It far exceeds Banksy’s previous record, held by “The Parliament of the Apes”. This canvas showing chimpanzees occupying all the seats in the House of Commons, was sold in 2019, in a period of heated debate on Brexit, for 9.9 million pounds (11.5 million euros at the current rate ).

“A historic moment”

At the end of a breathtaking auction session, the auctioneer hailed an “extraordinary success” and a “historic moment”. “Thank you very much of course to Banksy for this incredible gesture,” he said, recalling that “most of the proceeds will be used for the welfare of the staff and patients at Southampton Hospital”, in the south of England.

Sold on the day the United Kingdom commemorates the anniversary of its first confinement (out of three to date), “Game Changer” depicts a little boy who, after throwing his Batman and Superman figures in the trash, plays with a nurse doll wearing mask and cape.

Banksy initially donated this work to Southampton Hospital in May 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. A reproduction will be installed there.

In recent years, the enigmatic contemporary artist from Bristol, with an unknown identity, has kept contemporary art circles spellbound with his emblematic causes (migrants, opposition to Brexit, denunciation of the Islamists) and has driven the auctions into a panic. last years.

The partial and provocative self-destruction of his canvas in October 2018, just after its acquisition at Sotheby’s in London by a collector for more than a million euros, had already created a global buzz.

“A personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”

For Christie’s, “Game changer” constitutes a “personal tribute to those who continue to reverse the course of the pandemic”. “Banksy’s ‘Game Changer’ was a light of hope for the staff and patients of Southampton Hospital and the artist wanted to auction it off for the benefit of the NHS,” the national health service, said explained before the sale Katharine Arnold, co-director, in charge of post-war and contemporary art in Europe at Christie’s.

Katharine Arnold pointed out that the work “makes[ait] tribute to strength and resilience [des employés du NHS]”.

A beloved institution of the British, the free public service has undergone significant savings measures for a decade, before finding itself in the turmoil of the Covid-19 crisis, which has killed more than 126,000 in the United Kingdom, the worst record in Europe.

A “happy impact”

By giving the work to caregivers in May 2020, the artist had left them a note: “Thank you for everything you do. I hope this will brighten up the place a bit, even if it is only in black. and white”.

According to Paula Head, Managing Director of Southampton Hospital, Banksy’s gift “made a huge difference to the morale of the hospital and the people who work there”, “all staff” describing “the joyous impact” that the work had on them. “Moved”, “amazed”, “brilliant”: in a video published in early March, the hospital staff also wanted to thank the street artist for his gift.

The work was auctioned Tuesday as part of a larger sale dedicated to artists of the XXe century, where we find among others a self-portrait of the American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (sold over 9 million pounds), as well as canvases by French artists Pierre Soulages and Jean Dubuffet.

With AFP

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Record price at auction for a work by Banksy to benefit the British health service