Banksy (UK, B. 1974)
Banksy (UK, B. 1974)

This is a Pipe

Banksy (UK, B. 1974)
This is a Pipe
signed and dated ‘Banksy 2011’ (on the reverse)
paint, vintage frame and reclaimed metal
artwork: 69 x 80 x 29 cm. (27 1/8 x 34 5/8 x 11 3/8 in.)
framed: 87.6 x 99 cm. (34 1/2 x 39 in.)
Executed in 2011
Acquired from the artist by the previous owner
Anon. Sale, Sotheby’s London, 9 March 2017, Lot 154
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control Office.
Los Angeles, USA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art in the Streets, 17 April - 8 August 2011

Brought to you by

Jessica Hsu
Jessica Hsu

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Lot Essay

'Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.'- Banksy

"Banksy paints over the line between aesthetics and language, then stealthily repaints it in the unlikeliest of places. His works, whether he stencils them on the streets, sells them in exhibitions or hangs them in museums on the sly, are filled with wit and metaphors that transcend language barriers." – Shepard Fairey in Time magazine, on Banksy's entry in the Time 100 list, April 2010

Renegade street artist Bansky is infamous for his striking, satirical artworks, which often poke fun at social issues and the mainstream art establishment. The present lot, entitled This is a Pipe (Lot 009), draws inspiration from an iconic work by Magritte. Yet instead of painting a tobacco pipe, Bansky has framed a metal spigot in a gilt frame, with the words "This is a pipe" scrawled underneath. The work, previously exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, is a humorous example of Banksy's artistic wit and penchant for using art historical references and found objects in his work.

In 1929, René Magritte created a work that he entitled The Treachery of Images. The painting depicted a tobacco pipe, under which was written the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe.", French for "This is not a pipe." Challenging the presumed relationship between visual representation, language, and objecthood, the iconic painting posed a conceptual challenge, reminding the viewer that there is in fact no pipe present despite our instinctual response otherwise.

Banksy's version flips Magritte's work on its head, as he has chosen to use an actual, physical pipe as his subject, writing underneath "This is a pipe" in English while emulating the schoolboy cursive of the original. The gilt frame around the protruding pipe and text completes the work, elevating the corroded metal and completing the visual reference to Magritte's painting. Yet Banksy's decision to leave the raw edges of the metal protruding outside the frame is a reminder of the appropriated nature of his work, and his origins as a street artist painting on existing surfaces. The act also subtly references the work of Marcel Duchamp and his practice of coopting found objects as ready-made art pieces.

The present work was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles in 2011, as part of Art in the Streets, the first major museum survey of graffiti and street art held in the USA. Banksy's prominent inclusion in this exhibition highlighted his status as one of the most well-recognized street artists in the world, infamous for his secret identity and frequent public stunts.

This is a Pipe, though simple in its conception and execution, exemplifies one of the best qualities of Banksy's art: his ability to introduce shock, surprise, and humor into everyday life. With a simple act and a few objects, Banksy not only subverts a famous work of art but challenges our own expectations surrounding art and originality. This challenge – the question of what deserves to be lauded as art, definitions of ownership, and what is or is not permitted – is central to Banksy's work, contributing to Banksy's international appeal as artist, activist, and rebel.

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