LA-based auction house Julien’s is running an online auction of works by the British street artist Banksy, as well as other street artists that influenced and were influenced by the enigmatic graffiti artist. The auction began on Tuesday 28th March, and is set to run until Tuesday 11th April.
Among the lots are four pieces created by Banksy. The unidentified artist started his career in the 1990s in Bristol, England, where he was part of the burgeoning street art scene. To this day, Banksy aficionados visit Bristol to see the artist’s work on the cobbled streets where his career began. After honing his craft in Bristol, Banksy took his clandestine art to bigger cities, such as London, Paris, and Los Angeles.
The early noughties saw Banksy start to hold ambitious and lucrative exhibitions, including 2002’s Existencilism, held in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. By the end of the noughties, he had become one of the world’s most notorious, well known, and valuable names in modern art.
The lot to keep an eye out for at Julien’s is No Ball Games, from 2009. The piece depicts two children throwing around a ‘No Ball Games’ sign, presumably in lieu of being able to play with a ball. The piece is a classic example of Banksy’s dry wit, and is expected to fetch as much as $12,000 at the auction.
Another piece that’s worth looking at is Festival (Destroy Capitalism), from 2005. The piece shows a group of festival-goers lining up to buy a T-shirt with the slogan ‘destroy capitalism’ emblazoned on it, for a price of $30. The piece mixes Banksy’s wit with a political awareness that’s visible throughout his art, to humorously lampoon the inherent capitalism of anti-capitalist protest.
One of the most interesting non-Banksy lots in the sale are two pieces by Mr Brainwash, a Banksy fanatic-turned-artist, who featured prominently in Banksy’s 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. In the documentary, the cameraman – Frenchman Thierry Guetta – becomes obsessed with Banksy, dedicating his spare time to shadowing and filming the enigmatic artist at work. When Banksy grows irritated with Guetta’s incessant filming, he urges him to put down the camera and pick up a paintbrush instead.
Taking the name Mr Brainwash, Guetta began work on a production line of pieces, a garish, neon-tinged appropriation of the pop art style pioneered by Andy Warhol. Mr Brainwash’s art has divided opinion, and certainly has its critics (not least Banksy himself). However, Guetta also has his admirers, and his strong ties to Banksy ensure that his works often perform well at auction.
One piece up for sale at Julien’s is Don’t be Cruel from 2008, depicting Elvis Presley holding a bright blue toy assault rifle, rather than his trademark acoustic guitar. It is expected to sell for as much as $12,000.
Another artist to keep an eye out for is Shepard Fairey, who has two pieces in the auction. Fairey rose to global prominence in 2008, when he created the famous ‘HOPE’ poster for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. While the poster was not an official part of the campaign, it came to symbolise the growing optimism behind Obama’s ultimately successful campaign.
Prior to that, Fairey had already made his name as a well-respected street artist, and one of the pieces up for grabs comes from the period prior to his HOPE fame. The piece – one of many depicting wrestler Andre the Giant in his OBEY series – is called Obey Fidelity, and is expected to fetch up to $3,000. The other piece up for sale is 2010’s Global Warning, which depicts a woman shielding herself from the sun with a newspaper whose headlines declare the dangers of global warming.
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