Banksy works up for auction

A visitor taking pictures at the Walled Off hotel, which was opened by street artist Banksy, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
A visitor taking pictures at the Walled Off hotel, which was opened by street artist Banksy, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.PHOTO: REUTERS

The elusive British artist's works are among a collection of street and contemporary art to go under the hammer next month

LOS ANGELES • More than a dozen works by the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy are among a collection of street and contemporary art up for auction in Los Angeles next month.

Banksy's Umbrella Rat, an original aerosol stencil of a rat holding an umbrella that was found on a metal door in Berlin, is one of the top items on offer by Julien's Auctions, estimated at between US$30,000 (S$42,000) and US$50,000.

Mr Michael Doyle, an auctioneer at Julien's Auctions, said Umbrella Rat could fetch as much as US$100,000. "Most of the time, these (works) get covered up by the city or different private building owners, so it's very rare to find an existing piece of street art that is actually from the streets," he said.

Other Banksy works expected to go under the hammer at the May 11 auction include Black Bobby, a 2003 black aerosol stencil of a British policeman estimated to fetch between US$20,000 and US$40,000. A 2004 screenprint titled Bomb Love, of a girl hugging a missile, is expected to fetch upwards of US$5,000.

British artist Banksy - who is presumed to be a man, but has kept his identity secret - rose to prominence through the Bristol street art scene in the west of England. He is known for creating works on buildings displaying ironic and provocative social commentary, and political stunts such as his recently opened Walled Off Hotel in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

"In these political times, his artwork is taking on even increasing significance and being valued higher because the political message speaks to people more directly," Mr Doyle said.

The highest price for a work of art by Banksy was set in 2008 when Keep It Spotless was sold for US$1.8 million at Sotheby's in New York.

The auction in Los Angeles will also feature a 1975 Andy Warhol screenprint of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, estimated at between US$30,000 and US$40,000, and works by Shepard Fairey, best known for creating the Hope poster for Mr Barack Obama's 2008 United States presidential campaign.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Banksy works up for auction'. Print Edition | Subscribe