A painting by the anonymous British street artist Banksy fetched £7.6 million (~$9.8 million) at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London last night. Surpassing its pre-sale estimate of £3 million (~$3.9 million) to £5 million (~$6.5 million), it is the second-highest price ever paid for a work by the artist.
In “Show Me The Monet” (2005), Banksy riffs on Claude Monet’s iconic paintings of a Japanese-style wooden footbridge in his water lily garden in Giverny. By littering the tranquil Impressionist scene with half-submerged shopping carts and a bright orange traffic cone, he offers a biting critique of consumerism, excess, and environmental waste.
The work was included in one of Banksy’s earliest gallery exhibitions, Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin, held at 100 Westbourne Grove in London in 2005. It was among 22 hand-painted canvases that reworked and subverted traditional modern masterpieces, including a painting of a vase filled with dead sunflowers based on one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most recognizable images and a portrait of the model Kate Moss based on Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Monroe” series.
Notably, the show also included 164 live rats, a living representation of one of Banksy’s recurring motifs. Early on in his career, he spray-painted the rodents onto London subway cars and murals as a form of social commentary, inspired by the French graffiti artist Blek le Rat; they continue to feature prominently in his works.
“Fortunately, no rats will feature in the Sotheby’s display,” said the auction house’s press release.
Last October, Sotheby’s sold Banksy’s “Devolved Parliament” (2009), an oil on canvas depicting Britain’s House of Commons overrun by chimpanzees, for £9.9 million with fees (~$12.1 million), setting an auction high for the artist.