Banksy created this work as part of The Cans Festival, Leake Street, London, in early May 2008. It no longer exists. Photo Courtesy of Pest Control Office, Banksy, London, 2008

Collecting guide: Banksy

Specialist James Baskerville discusses the life and art of the world’s most famous street artist. Illustrated with lots offered at Christie’s

In July 2019, anonymous graffiti artist Banksy was voted Britain’s favourite artist, beating Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet to the title.

Although his identity remains a mystery, Banksy’s provocative stencils are among the most iconic and controversial images in Street Art. He first sprayed — or ‘bombed’ — the walls of Bristol in the southwest of England in the early 1990s, but his fame soared after he moved to London in the early 2000s. He has since left his mark on cities around the world, from Barcelona to San Francisco.

Banksy, Choose Your Weapon (Slate). Screenprint in colours, 2010, on wove paper, signed in green crayon, numbered 1425. Image 600 x 600 mm; sheet 699 x 699  mm. Estimate £100,000-150,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Choose Your Weapon (Slate). Screenprint in colours, 2010, on wove paper, signed in green crayon, numbered 14/25. Image: 600 x 600 mm; sheet: 699 x 699 mm. Estimate: £100,000-150,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

He has an Academy Award-nominated documentary (2010’s Exit through the Gift Shop), a pop-up ‘bemusement park’ (Dismaland, created in 2015), a dystopian hotel (The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem), and an auction record of £18.5 million to his name.

His collectors include celebrity actors, musicians and artists, and even the British Museum, which added a fake banknote depicting Diana, Princess of Wales, to its collection of coins, medals and currency.

Banksy, Flying Copper. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 166600. Image 956 x 621 mm; sheet 997 x 699 mm. Estimate £30,000-50,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Flying Copper. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 166/600. Image: 956 x 621 mm; sheet 997 x 699 mm. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

In May 2020, Banksy’s canvas Game Changer, which shows a boy playing with a nurse doll dressed as a superhero, appeared overnight in a hospital in England as the artist’s way to thank staff for their contribution to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The following March, Christie’s offered the picture at auction, with the proceeds going to charity. It raised £16.8 million.

So, how did Banksy’s art go from the street to the saleroom? Here, Prints & Multiples specialist James Baskerville explores Banksy’s commercial career and the works that have performed best at auction.

Banksy versus the art market

The irony that the Establishment has embraced his anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian art is not lost on Banksy. His screenprint Morons  lampoons the auction world: the image parodies a photograph of Christie’s record-breaking sale of Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers in 1987.

Banksy, Flower Thrower Triptych (Grey). The set of three screenprints in colours, 2019, on micron board, signed and numbered 219300, each panel framed to the artists specifications in ornate gold-gilt frames. Image & sheet (left panel) 750 x 550  mm; ‌image & sheet (centre panel) 920 x 610  mm; ‌image & sheet (right panel) 370 x 470  mm. Estimate £150,000-250,000.

Banksy, Flower Thrower Triptych (Grey). The set of three screenprints in colours, 2019, on micron board, signed and numbered 219/300, each panel framed to the artist's specifications in ornate gold-gilt frames. Image & sheet (left panel): 750 x 550 mm; ‌image & sheet (centre panel): 920 x 610 mm; ‌image & sheet (right panel): 370 x 470 mm. Estimate: £150,000-250,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

In place of the flowers, Banksy writes, ‘I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.’ An edition of this print sold for £75,000 in an online sale in April 2021. Another proof, ‘outside of the edition’, sold for £81,900 in May 2022. 

Banksy has been selling his art since the 1990s

Alongside his street art, Banksy has been creating works for sale for more than 20 years. The earliest pieces at auction date from 1998, while his earliest commercial prints are from 2002. 

Banksy, Soup Can - Mint  Emerald Green. Screenprint in colours, 2005, on wove paper, signed and dated in pencil, numbered 1010. Image 257 x 155 mm; sheet 500 x 348 mm. Estimate £50,000-70,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Soup Can - Mint / Emerald Green. Screenprint in colours, 2005, on wove paper, signed and dated in pencil, numbered 10/10. Image: 257 x 155 mm; sheet 500 x 348 mm. Estimate: £50,000-70,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

‘Banksy didn’t create prints to make money. They were sold for low prices in order to democratise his art and make it accessible,’ explains Baskerville. ‘People were often buying the art as if it was a poster, with no awareness of its future value.’

Banksy continued to sell his work in later, now-famous solo exhibitions, including Barely Legal  in Los Angeles in 2006, and Banksy versus Bristol Museum  in 2009.

His most iconic images fetch the highest prices

Banksy’s most sought-after editions, canvases and sculptures are often directly inspired by his graffiti art.

Banksy, Pulp Fiction. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 393600. Image 420 x 628 mm; sheet 487 x 694 mm. Estimate £40,000-60,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Pulp Fiction. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 393/600. Image 420 x 628 mm; sheet 487 x 694 mm. Estimate: £40,000-60,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Girl with Balloon, depicting a girl extending her hand towards a heart-shaped balloon, was originally a series of stencil murals first sprayed in London in 2002.

‘Editions of this iconic artwork are the most desirable Banksy pieces at auction,’ says Baskerville. The image of the girl with the balloon is synonymous with the artist, and there are variations in red, purple, pink and gold. 

In September 2020, Christie’s sold an artist’s proof with a purple balloon for £791,250, more than triple its low estimate. The price set a new world record for a Banksy edition at the time of sale.

NOLA, also known as Umbrella Girl, first appeared in New Orleans in 2008. It was created in response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Editions with white rain and grey rain were subsequently made for general release in editions of 289 and 63 respectively. 

Banksy also made a small number of artist’s proofs and ‘gifts’ with orange, yellow or multicoloured rain. The sale of NOLA (Yellow Rain) — Outside of the edition for £375,000 in April 2021 set a record price for the subject at auction.


Rats and chimps

According to Baskerville, works featuring rats and chimps are among the most recognisable and sought-after. ‘There are many variations of the rats. Some hold placards, others paint,’ says the specialist. ‘A picture of a chimpanzee bearing the words “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge” is also one of the most celebrated.’

Banksy, Laugh Now. Screenprint in colours, 2003, on wove paper, numbered 311600 in penci. Image 656 x 421 mm; sheet 694 x 495 mm. Estimate £40,000-60,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Laugh Now. Screenprint in colours, 2003, on wove paper, numbered 311/600 in penci. Image: 656 x 421 mm; sheet 694 x 495 mm. Estimate: £40,000-60,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Love Rat. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 136600 in pencil. Image 355 x 300 mm; sheet 498 x 350 mm. Estimate £30,000-50,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Love Rat. Screenprint in colours, 2004, on wove paper, numbered 136/600 in pencil. Image: 355 x 300 mm; sheet 498 x 350 mm. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Original Banksy graffiti 

By the late 2000s, the art world had caught up with Banksy’s popular appeal, and many of his works had been removed from their original public settings and sold.

Banksy has always wanted his street-art pieces to remain in their original contexts, and it is important to note that they will not be authenticated by the artist or his team. 

Since the 1990s, Banksy has ‘bombed’ cities across the UK, including London, Brighton and Bristol, as well as urban hotspots across America, Australia and Canada. He strikes with no prior warning, so the next city or dwelling to be sprayed could be yours.

In August 2021, Banksy undertook a ‘Great British Spraycation’ and installed several graffiti pieces in sites on the east coast of England.

His prints come in both unsigned and signed editions — and a Pest Control certificate is essential

Banksy’s unsigned prints are created in higher edition numbers. As a result, they are more affordable than their signed counterparts. Unsigned and signed artworks are equally legitimate — a certificate from Pest Control, Banksy’s ‘handling service’, is the proof of authenticity that you need.

Banksy, Banksquiat (Grey). Screenprint in colours, 2019, on grey card, signed in white crayon, numbered 271300. Image 700 x 650 mm; sheet 745 x 700 mm. Estimate £80,000-120,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Banksquiat (Grey). Screenprint in colours, 2019, on grey card, signed in white crayon, numbered 271/300. Image: 700 x 650 mm; sheet 745 x 700 mm. Estimate: £80,000-120,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy set up Pest Control in 2008 to authenticate his artworks and prevent fakes from circulating on the market. All Banksy artworks created after 2009 were sold with a Pest Control certificate. The service can retroactively issue certificates for works created before 2008. Pest Control is now the only channel through which to buy new primary-market works by the artist.

Baskerville warns that there are fake Pest Control certificates in circulation, but these are recognisable to an expert. ‘If you’re unsure about your certificate, show it to a specialist who can advise you,’ he says. ‘Or contact Pest Control directly.’

Banksy, Sale Ends (v.2). Screenprint in colours, 2017, on arches wove paper, signed in pencil, numbered 121500. Image 395 x 658 mm; sheet 573 x 768 mm. Estimate £25,000-35,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, Sale Ends (v.2). Screenprint in colours, 2017, on arches wove paper, signed in pencil, numbered 121/500. Image: 395 x 658 mm; sheet 573 x 768 mm. Estimate: £25,000-35,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy’s works are currently only available on the secondary market

‘It’s not possible to buy a Banksy on the primary market these days,’ says Baskerville. ‘A decade ago, the artist was selling directly through certified dealers, at exhibitions, or through his former printers, Pictures on Walls. But today he only sells through Pest Control, and nothing is currently available.’

If you are acquiring a Banksy on the secondary market, the specialist’s advice is to buy from a trusted source such as a big auction house or a reputable dealer. All Banksy artworks offered at Christie’s have been authenticated and come with Pest Control certificates.

Banksy, HMV Dog. Screenprint in black, 2003, on wove paper, stamped with the banksy tag in red ink, numbered 469600. Image 290 x 440 mm; sheet 351 x 499 mm. Estimate £20,000-30,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy, HMV Dog. Screenprint in black, 2003, on wove paper, stamped with the banksy tag in red ink, numbered 469/600. Image 290 x 440 mm; sheet 351 x 499 mm. Estimate: £20,000-30,000. Offered in Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions on 7-21 September 2022 at Christie’s Online

Banksy’s market has a wide collector base

In Baskerville’s opinion, Banksy has earned his place in art history. ‘He’s not a fad that will disappear. His market has been incredibly buoyant, and we have seen increased interest and demand from collectors when he pulls a stunt.’

It’s also a matter of supply and demand. Baskerville points out that Banksy had not made a new edition since Choose Your Weapon  in 2010, until Sale Ends (v.2)  was released from the Pictures on Walls closing-down sale in 2017.

‘The artist then unexpectedly unveiled a shopfront in Croydon, London, in October 2019, where collectors had the opportunity to purchase limited editions and collectibles via a lottery system. However, the lucky buyers had to wait two years before they could apply for the accompanying certificates of authenticity.’

Look after your Banksy — and it will look after you

Although Banksy’s street art is weathered, most of his commercial works are issued in pristine condition — whether on paper, canvas, cardboard or stencilled on a wooden box. Care for them as you would any other artwork: hang canvases and prints away from direct sunlight and changing humidity. Works on paper should be framed beneath UV-protective glass.

It’s just as important to look after the Pest Control certificate: you will need it if you ever decide to sell your Banksy.