Last Wednesday during Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art sale in London, a historic Banksy canvas came very close to tripling its high estimate of £50,000. Originally exhibited in 2002 at Santa’s Ghetto, a perennial winter group show (a modern riff of which occurred last December with Marks and Stencils) during those early, pre-hype years that saw Banksy canvases sell – and sometimes sit unsold – for a mere few hundred quid, Bird with Grenade closed at £145,250 ($228,043). The piece serves as an interesting example of Banksy’s “defaced” work, in which stenciled imagery is sprayed upon a found canvas perhaps purchased from a flea market or salvaged from a dumpster. Talk about value added.

This strong result coupled with that of the Gas Mask Boy sale at $178,000 back in June, as well as progressively higher and higher results for conventional editioned canvasses (and now large-editioned prints even) that were accessible for a fraction of these figures just barely over a year ago, begs the question; is everything back to “normal”? Are the results over the past year indicative of a full recovery in the Banksy market? Has demand grown so much over the past couple years to justify the prices, smack in the face of Europe teetering on the brink and a less than rosy outlook in the US? Or have prices once again gone too far too fast, potentially setting up for another massive retracement if the bottom officially falls out from under this economic “recovery”? Ultimately, its too early to say and only hindsight will afford a clear view.

Peep the list, which places Bird with Grenade as the 27th highest sale all time, along with more trivial ramblings after the jump.

What is clear, since the bottoming of the art market in summer/fall 2009, there has been money pouring back into art, and certainly into the Banksy market as confidence has seemingly been restored in the global financial system. Whether it be genuine Banksy collectors swimming in Uncle Scrooge-like piles of cash. Or, more likely, investment bankers diversifying their portfolio with tangible assets or celebrities buying into several highly publicized projects covered by major media outlets (see Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy vs. Robbo, Oscar Buzz, Art in the Streets), prices have risen at a staggering pace over the last 12 – 18 months. A more cynical view, which invariably arises when debating such lofty auction results, might suggest some level of price manipulation.

Yet, its probably far less devious. On the heels of the jaw-dropping success of his ironically timed Beautiful Inside My Head Forever two-day auction-style exhibition at Sotheby’s, which occurred on the exact same day Lehman Brothers failed and saw a record setting $199 million worth of artwork sold, Damien Hirst bluntly commented: “I guess it means people would rather put their money into butterflies than banks”. With a loss of faith in complex investment vehicles, perhaps its really that simple. People with monopoly money might just want to actually touch, or look at, their money, rather than have it esoterically exist in 1′s and 0′s for high-frequency traders or a single “fat finger trade” to jeopardize. It doesn’t matter what they’re buying or that they know nothing beyond the artist being “that street artist from that movie”.

Anyway you slice it, the market collapse of fall 2008 and ensuing global recession resulted in a much needed correction in Banksy prices, as well as that of the contemporary art market as a whole. Building up to that cataclysmic Wall Street crash, original Banksy works brokered by the major auction houses – primarily Sotheby’s, with the occasional work represented by Christie’s, Bonhams, and Phillips de Pury – were plowing through expectations and achieving historic results the likes of which had never been seen by any street artist. The media exposure gained – and the introduction to the high profile Hollywood collector circuit – in the wake of the infamous Barely Legal show in 2006, set the stage for a series of record setting sales that occurred with clockwork-like succession and predictability during the 2007-2008 period. However, like anything that seemed too good to be true, and with prices having effectively gone parabolic, a massive market top was in the works. Sure enough, in lockstep with equity markets, those 2007/2008 prices served as a precursor to one of the most extreme periods of depreciation ever experienced.

With that in mind, we thought it might be interesting to take a look backwards and examine where this recent result, the most compelling in quite some time, stacks up against those record setting prices from a few years back. So, after a bit too much time spent researching, collating, and analyzing, AM now brings you the Top 25 (er, 27) Most Expensive Banksy Works Ever. Exciting?! Probably not. But lists are always fun and this one is particularly telling. All relevant info, images, and prices are sourced from the respective auction listings and have been calculated in US Dollars (including buyer’s premium) using the exchange rate on the date of the actual sales. Without further adieu..

1. Keep It Spotless – $1,870,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Keep It Spotless (Defaced Hirst)
Description: Banksy (b. 1975) “Warning Sign” signed and dated 2007 on reverse
Medium: household gloss and spray paint on canvas
Year of Work: 2007
Size: 81 1/4 in x 120 1/8 in
Edition: Unique
Note: singed and dated 2007 on the reverse; Damien Hirst ‘Pharmaceutical” (spot) painting which Banksy defaced
Sale: Sotheby’s AUCTION (RED) | New York | February, 14 2008
Lot: 34
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000 USD
Sold For: 1,870,000 USD

 

2. Simple Intelligence Testing – $1,265,120

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Simple Intelligence Testing
Medium: oil on canvas laid onto board, five parts
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 36 in x 36 in (each)
Edition: Unique
Note: stenciled with the signature on the fifth canvas
Provenance: Severnshed, Bristol
Exhibited: Banksy, 2000, Severnshed, Bristol
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | February, 28 2008
Lot: 327
Estimate: 100,000 – 150,000 GBP
Sold For: 636,500 GBP (1,265,120 USD)

 

 

3. The Rude Lord – $658,025

Title: The Rude Lord
Medium: oil on canvas in original artist’s frame
Year of Work: 2006
Size: 35 in x 30 1/4 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Exhibited: Barely Legal, 2006, Hunter Street Warehouse, Los Angeles
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction | London | October, 12 2007
Lot: 9
Estimate: 150,000 – 200,000 GBP
Sold For: 320,900 GBP (658,025 USD)

 

4. Vandalised Phone Box – $605,000

Title: Vandalised Phone Box
Medium: telephone box and pickax
Year of Work: 2005
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Work installed in Soho Square, London 2005 and later recovered from Westminster Environmental Services
Sale: Sotheby’s AUCTION (RED) | New York | February, 14 2008
Lot: 33A
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD
Sold For: 605,000 USD

 

5. Space Girl and Bird – $575,813

Title: Space Girl and Bird
Medium: spray paint on steel
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 52 3/8 in x 21 1/4 in
Edition: Unique
Note: Part of a series of designs commissioned by Blur for the cover of their Think Tank album
Sale: Bonhams Vision 21 | London | April, 21 2007
Lot: 299
Sold For: 288,000 GBP (575,813 USD)

 

6. Queen Victoria – $478,095

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Queen Victoria
Medium: oil on canvas in original artist’s frame
Year of Work: 2002
Size: 36 in x 36 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Exhibited: Santa’s Ghetto, 2002, Shoreditch Dragon Bar, London
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction | London | October, 12 2008
Lot: 47
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000 GBP
Sold For: 277,250 GBP (478,095 USD)

 

 

7. Insane Clown – $481,165

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Insane Clown
Medium: spray paint stencil on Hessian
Year of Work: 2001
Size: 99 1/4 in x 76 1/8 in
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Edition: Unique
Sale: Phillips de Pury Contemporary Art Evening Auction | London | June, 29 2008
Lot: 222
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 GBP
Sold For: 241,250 GBP (481,165 USD)

 

8. Laugh Now – $449,349

Title: Laugh Now
Medium: stencil spray paint on painted board, in three parts
Year of Work: 2002
Size: 42 5/16 in x 238 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Commissioned for interior of Ocean Rooms Night Club in Brighton
Sale: Bonhams Urban Art | London | February 5, 2008
Lot: 10
Sold For: 228,000 GBP (449,349 USD)

 

9. David – $416,742

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: David
Medium: fiberglass, enamel, and wax
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 62 1/4 in x 17 3/4 in x 14 1/2
Edition: 1 of 3 pieces
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Exhibited: Barely Legal, 2006, Hunter Street Warehouse, Los Angeles
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | February, 28 2008
Lot: 13
Estimate: 120,000 – 150,000 GBP
Sold For: 204,500 GBP (416,742 USD)

 

10. Insane Clown – $386,500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Insane Clown
Medium: spray paint stencil on Hessian
Year of Work: 2001
Size: 99 1/4 in x 76 1/8 in
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Edition: Unique
Sale: Phillips de Pury Contemporary Art Auction (Part I) | New York | November 12, 2009
Lot: 28
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD
Sold For: 386,500 USD

 

11. Ruined Landscape – $385,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Ruined Landscape
Medium: oil and spay paint on canvas
Year of Work: 2007
Size: 19 3/4 in x 23 5/8 in
Edition: Unique
Note: signed and dated 2007 on the reverse
Sale: Sotheby’s AUCTION (RED) | New York | February, 14 2008
Lot: 69
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD
Sold For: 385,000 USD

 

12. Pie Face – $382,140

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Pie Face
Medium: oil on canvas
Year of Work: 2006
Size: 19 3/4 in x 15 3/4 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Lazarides Gallery, London
Exhibited: Stench, 2006, Lazarides Gallery, London
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening | London | June 21, 2007
Lot: 69
Estimate: 70,000 – 100,000 GBP
Sold For: 192,000 GBP (382,140 USD)

 

13. Warning Sign – $361,199

Title: Warning Sign
Medium: spray enamel on composite plastic
Year of Work: 2006
Size: 31 1/2 in x 31 1/2 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Note: Authenticated by Pest Control Office
Sale: Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Day Sale | London | July 01, 2008
Lot: 325
Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 GBP
Sold For: 181,250 GBP (361,199 USD)

 

14. Police – $346,840

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Police
Medium: spray paint and spray paint stencil on board
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | July 28, 2008
Lot: 326
Estimate: 30,000 – 40,000 GBP
Sold For: 174,500 GBP (346,840 USD)

 

 

15. Untitled (Laugh Now) – $342,995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Untitled
Medium: acrylic and spray paint stencil on canvas
Year of Work: circa 2000
Size: 24 in x 24 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from Eat the Beat Records by present owner in 2000
Exhibited: Eat the Beat Records, 2000, 11 St Nicholas Street, Bristol
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art | London | October 15, 2007
Lot: 106
Estimate: 30,000 – 50,000 GBP
Sold For: 168,500 GBP (342,995 USD)

 

 

16. Mona Lisa – $334,914

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Mona Lisa
Medium: spray paint stencil on board
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | February 28, 2008
Lot: 325
Estimate: 30,000 – 40,000 GBP
Sold For: 168,500 GBP (334,914 USD)

 

 

17. Mona Lisa with AK47 – $310,732

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Mona Lisa With AK47
Medium: spray paint stencil on board
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art, Day | London | June 22, 2007
Lot: 333
Estimate: 40,000 – 60,000 GBP
Sold For: 156,000 GBP (310,732 USD)

 

18. Police – $310,732

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Police
Medium: spray paint stencil on board
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art, Day | London | June 22, 2007
Lot: 335
Estimate: 30,000 – 40,000 GBP
Sold For: 156,000 GBP (310,732 USD)

 

19. Think Tank – $307,237

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Think Tank
Medium: stencil and spray paint on steel
Year of Work: 2003
Size: 75 9/16 in x 70 1/2 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Part of a series of designs commissioned by Blur for the cover of their Think Tank album
Note: Authenticated by Pest Control Office
Sale: Bonhams Vision 21 | London | April 16, 2008
Lot: 359
Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 GBP
Sold For: 156,000 GBP (307,237 USD)

 

20. Monkeys – $286,829

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Monkeys
Medium: spray paint stencil on board
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art, Day | London | June 22, 2007
Lot: 324
Estimate: 30,000 – 40,000 GBP
Sold For: 132,500 GBP (286,829 USD)

 

21. Untitled (Happy Coppers) – $286,217

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Untitled (Happy Coppers)
Medium: acrylic and spray paint on cardboard, in two parts
Year of Work: 2003
Size: 78 3/4 in x 30 3/4 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from WUK Kunsthalle Exnergasse by present owner in 2003
Exhibited: BAD PRESS – Banksy, 2003, WUK Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | February 28, 2008
Lot: 334
Estimate: 30,000 – 40,000 GBP
Sold For: 144,000 GBP (286,217 USD)

 

22. You Told That Joke Twice – $266,061

Title: You Told That Joke Twice
Medium: acrylic, spray enamel and oilstick on canvas
Year of Work: 2002
Size: 48 1/8 in x 65 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from Severnshed by present owner in 2005
Exhibited: Banksy, 2000, Severnshed, Bristol
Sale: Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Sale | London | February 12, 2010
Lot: 270
Estimate: 100,000 – 150,000 GBP
Sold For: 169,250 GBP (266,061 USD)

 

23. Flower Thrower / Laugh Now / Bomb Hugger – $241,7373

Title: Flower Thrower (i) / Laugh Now (ii) / Bomb Hugger (iii)
Medium: stencil on canvas with signature on overlap
Year of Work: 2002
Size: 16 7/8 in x 16 78 in (each)
Edition:(i) signed, numbered 1/5 and dated 2002 on the stretcher
(ii) signed, numbered 1/1 and dated LA 2002 on the stretcher
(iii) signed, numbered 4/5 and dated LA 2002 on the stretcher
Provenance: Acquired directly from 33 1/3 Gallery by present owner in 2002
Exhibited: Existencilism, 2002, 33 1/3 Gallery, Los Angeles
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | July 2, 2008
Lot: 307
Estimate: 100,000 – 150,000 GBP
Sold For: 121,250 GBP (241,737 USD)

 

24. Corrupted Oil – $249,249

Title: Corrupted Oil
Medium: oil and spray enamel on found canvas in artist’s frame
Year of Work: circa 2000
Size: 28 3/8 in x 39 1/4 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from TomTom Gallery, London
Sale: Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Day Sale | London | October 21, 2008
Lot: 301
Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 GBP
Sold For: 145,250 GBP (249,249 USD)

 

25. Sale Ends Today – $230,500

Title: Sale Ends Today
Medium: oil on canvas
Year of Work: 2006
Size: 84 in x 168 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from Lazarides Gallery by present owner in 2006
Exhibited: Barely Legal, 2006, Hunter Street Warehouse, Los Angeles
Sale: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction | London | February 28, 2008
Lot: 314
Estimate: 150,000 – 200,000 USD
Sold For: 230,500 USD

 

26. Untitled (Fuck The Police) – $229,00

Title: Untitled (Fuck the Police)
Medium: arcylic and spray enamel on panel
Year of Work: 2000
Size: 48 in x 48 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Afternoon Session | New York | May 14, 2008
Lot: 464
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000 USD
Sold For: 229,000 USD

 

27. Bird with Grenade – $228,043

Title: Bird and Grenade
Medium: oil and spray enamel on found canvas
Year of Work: 2002
Size: 27 in x 39 in
Edition: Unique
Provenance: Acquired directly from artist by present owner
Sale: Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art | London | September 14, 2011
Lot: 242
Estimate: 30,000 – 50,000 GBP
Sold For: 145,250 GBP (228,043 USD)

Discuss Banksy here.