Everyone’s favourite graffiti artist has come a long way since selling his prints for £40 in the early noughties. These days, his works regularly outstrip their high estimates at auction and demand is growing among serious collectors. Here, we chart some of his most valuable (and covetable) works…
For very VIPS
Love Hurts… although not, it turns out, if you’re among Banksy’s favourite collectors. In which case you might have bagged yourself an edition of one of the artist’s smallest print runs. During a 2013 New York residency, Banksy created just sixteen artists’ proofs of this wounded helium balloon, stuck on barbed wire and mended with crossed Band-Aids – and he only released them to VIPs, at a reported cost of £15,000 each. Banksy also created a street art version of the image on a wall in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn, only for it to be defaced within hours by a graffiti writer called Omar (once described as a ‘Banksy Hater’ by the Huff Post).
The Instantly Recognisable One
People have always had a soft-spot for Banksy’s famously shredded image, Girl With A Balloon: a 2017 poll by Samsung named it Britain’s favourite artwork. Although a total of 750 prints were made back in 2004/5 (150 signed and 600 unsigned) they’re notoriously hard to find (we have one here…). The print was once sold by Banksy’s original print outlet, Pictures on Walls, for just £150, but the value has since sky-rocketed – one recently fetched a staggering £475,000 at Christie’s in March 2021. Rare artist’s proofs of the image are worth even more because only 88 were ever made, in various colourways: The Gold version sold at Sotheby’s London in March 2021 for £900,000 – the highest price ever paid for a Banksy print to date, by some margin.
Bright and Beautiful
Girl With A Balloon isn’t the only Banksy to get the rainbow treatment. The artist often creates limited edition prints of some of his favourite works in multiple colourways: Usually released in smaller edition numbers, they’re highly sought after. Of the 21 colourways of Choose Your Weapon, gold is the most covetable, having been released as a VIP edition of just 25. In the case of Toxic Mary (Banksy’s controversial work which features the Madonna feeding a bottle of poison to Jesus), three rare colourways are artist’s proofs and so worth significantly more. Another of Banksy’s most popular and instantly recognisable works, Nola features a girl carrying an umbrella which has rain dripping from the inside. Created as a response to Hurricane Katrina, it comes in artist’s proof and VIP editions featuring multi-coloured rain – and these editions are some of the most desirable on the market.
Rats and monkeys are big business for Banksy collectors. Recurring themes in some of the artist’s earliest works, they’re found among his most instantly identifiable pieces. Laugh Now, which features a monkey wearing a placard with the now-famous phrase ‘laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge’ is perhaps the most iconic. Making its debut as a mural in a Brighton nightclub, this particular monkey has returned multiple times to Banksy’s street work and seeped into the public consciousness, which may be why it’s one of the most requested pieces on the market: We have one for sale here.
Following Banksy’s coronavirus-themed work on the underground, which featured his signature rodents holding hand sanitiser and sneezing, rats are also at the forefront of buyers’ minds. Of all Banksy’s prints of the creatures, Radar Rat, which comes in an edition of 75 prints hand-finished by the artist, is the most collectable.