ARTS & COLLECTIBLES
FOR A BANKSY
Distinguished Designer Sir Paul Smith Auctions Banksy’s Congestion Charge (2004) through Bonhams to Discerning Collectors.
Sir Paul Smith,
renowned British designer and tastemaker
Sir Paul Smith, one of Britain’s foremost designers, has a long-held interest in art – a fascination which is often reflected in his designs. Having collected a variety of artworks throughout his career, Sir Paul Smith has always shown a discerning eye and unwavering support for British art rebel, Banksy, having acquired his works early in the street artist’s career.
Hailing directly from the British fashion and design titan’s private art collection, Congestion Charge (2004), a rare Vandalized Oils painting by Banksy headlined Bonhams’ Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale this summer at the prestigious New Bond Street in London. Sir Paul Smith Banksy’s Santa’s Ghetto exhibition in London back in 2004 and has remained a cherished addition to his distinguished assortment, until now. Notably, this masterpiece, never before offered at auction, garnered a final hammer price of £1,681,900, including premium ($2,201,773.61).
Commenting on the significance of this painting, Ralph Taylor, Bonhams’ Global Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, astutely remarks, “This painting demonstrates Banksy’s indisputable and enduring currency as a social commentator and contemporary artist Banksy’s Vandalized Oils have consistently proven to be amongst the most valuable and highly coveted works in his oeuvre- and Congestion Charge is no exception. First unveiled and exhibited at Santa’s Ghetto in 2004, this painting is one of the first examples of his series which translate Banksy’s subversive interventions in urban spaces to the elite spaces of high art. Its unique provenance, having remained in collection of the pioneering British designer Sir Paul Smith for nearly two decades, only heightens its importance and will no doubt excite collectors.”
Banksy (b. 1975), Congestion Charge (2004).
Spanning several decades, Banksy’s irreverent humor and insightful satire, which deftly tackle various social and political issues prevalent within British society, have propelled him to the forefront of global recognition and acclaim. Distinguished by his audacious stenciling technique, Banksy’s universally recognizable works are relentlessly sought after by collectors worldwide. The Vandalized Oils, also known as Crude Oils, rose to fame through the iconic 2005 exhibition bearing the same name. These pieces comprise both reimagined versions of classical Old Master paintings, such as Show Me The Monet and Sunflowers From Petrol Station, and modified traditional oil paintings that the artist serendipitously encountered in flea markets throughout London, exemplified by Congestion Charge (2004). Banksy, in a truly remarkable feat, stealthily placed some of his Vandalized Oils within prominent galleries, where they inconspicuously hung amidst the institution’s permanent collection, often for days on end. This audacious act allowed Banksy to circumvent the confines of the traditional art world and its gatekeepers, enabling him to exert a direct impact on the public sphere while challenging notions of ownership, authenticity, and the commercialization of art.
Congestion Charge (2004), a testament to Banksy’s artistic ingenuity, confronts a multitude of pertinent issues, ranging from urban life to pollution and global warming. Through his deft brushwork, Banksy overlays a classical-style oil painting with an urgent sense of contemporary politics, injecting a charming pastoral scene with the jarring addition of a congestion sign. This incongruous element serves to ridicule the congestion charge policy, introduced in London the year prior to the creation of this work, aimed at alleviating peak-hour traffic. The absurd placement of the sign impels viewers to question the efficacy and repercussions of urban policies while epitomizing Banksy’s characteristic blend of playful and witty delivery of thought-provoking commentary.