Strong Demand for Banksy Prints at Sotheby’s £1.1m Online Sale Despite Coronavirus Outbreak

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, auction houses have announced revised schedules either postponing or combining upcoming sales. Even though online sales can go on as scheduled, there are concerns over sale performances as bidders are likely to be more cautious in this trying time.

After all, it boils down to the artworks on offer. Sotheby’s recent online sale has just proven that there remains a strong demand for Banksy regardless of ups and downs in the market. The sale achieved 96% sold by lots, selling 24 of 25 lots offered. It totalled £1.1m, exceeding the pre-sale high estimate of £672,000.

The top lot of the sale was Girl with Balloon - Colour AP (DARK PINK)

All lots offered at the sale are prints by the anonymous England-based street artist Banksy. The top lot of the sale was Girl with Balloon - Colour AP (DARK PINK), a rare screenprint in black and pink featuring the artist’s signature motif. Created in 2004, it is one of 88 artist's proofs printed in various colourways, with an estimate of £300,000-500,000. It was sold for £375,000 (premium included).

The sale also offered another 2004 screen print of Girl with Balloon, one of the 600 editions, estimated at £50,000-70,000. It was sold for £106,250 after premium, double its estimate, fetching the second-highest price at the sale.  

Girl with Balloon

Compared with Banksy’s oil paintings which are often sold for sky-high prices, his prints are offered at more accessible price points, and thus attract many new and young collectors or art investors. Take this online sale as an example, 47% of the buyer were new to Sotheby’s, and 30% of bidders were under 40 years old. To cater to different groups of collectors, auction houses usually put Banksy’s oil paintings in the star-studded evening sales while offering his prints in day sales or online sales.

In 2018, the artist’s rare unique painting of Girl with Balloon was sold for £1.04m after premium at Sotheby’s London. The artwork was later renamed Love Is in the Bin after its famous self-shredding stunt.

For Banksy’s artworks of the same theme, the prices of canvas versions are generally 10 times or higher than those of the print versions. Prints become a more affordable option for young collectors who see Banksy’s artworks as a lucrative investment. Riding on the artist’s rising popularity in the market in recent years, two leading auction houses have curated various dedicated sales of Banksy prints to attract new clients.

Girl with Balloon was sold for £1.04m in 2018 and renamed Love Is in the Bin

The painting shredded itself as the hammer was brought down

Last September, Sotheby’s achieved a white-glove online sale where 44 lots of Banksy prints were all sold, fetching a total of £1.5m, double its pre-sale estimate of £700,000. Meanwhile, Christie’s also pulled off an exceptional online sale of Banksy prints, selling 29 of 30 lots offered and totalling nearly £1.1m.

While many people expect that the economic downturn or global recession triggered by the pandemic would bring negative impact to auction houses, the market for Banksy artworks remains to be red-hot as always. Are auction houses able to carry the momentum from online sales to their live auctions? We will have to wait and see if the coronavirus outbreak brings impact on other sales.

Top four lots

Banksy. Girl with Balloon - Colour AP (DARK PINK)

Lot no.: 13
Created in: 2004
Size: 69.7 x 49.9cm; 85.2 x 64.1cm (with the frame)
Estimate: £300,000 - 500,000
Price realised: £375,000

Banksy. Girl with Balloon

Lot no.: 9
Created in: 2004
Size: 70 x 50cm
Estimate: £50,000 - 70,000
Price realised: £106,250

Banksy. Nola (White)

Lot no.: 15
Created in: 2008
Size: 75.5 x 54.7cm; 97 x 76cm (with the frame)
Estimate: £40,000 - 60,000
Price realised: £60,000

Banksy. Love Rat

Lot no.: 11
Created in: 2004
Size: 49.2 x 34.3cm; 62.5 x 48.8cm (with the frame)
Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000
Price realised: £60,000

Auction summary

Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Banksy | Online
Sale date: 26 March 2020
Lots offered: 25
Sold: 24
Unsold: 1
Sold by lot: 96%
Sale total: £1,075,625