Banksy’s Painting as Tribute to Medical Staff Sold For Record High and Raised £16.8m For NHS Charities

Right after the Hong Kong standalone sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Warrior, which was sold for HK$323.6m (US$41.7m), the record-breaking streak continued at Christie’s London saleroom with British street artist Banksy. His aptly titled painting Game Changer reset the auction record for him, sold for £16.8m (US$23m) with premium, far exceeding the presale high estimate of £3.5m.

The oil on canvas work carried a presale estimate of £2.5m to £3.5m, and much more. It was created as a thank-you to the UK's National Health Service (NHS) frontline staff and gifted to a hospital during the first wave of the pandemic last year. The proceeds from the sale will be donated to “support health organizations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS,” according to Christie’s.

Lot 6 | Banksy, Game Changer

Painted in 2020

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 91 x 91 cm

Provenance: Gifted by the artist to the present owner in 2020

Price estimate: £2,500,000 - 3,500,000

Hammer price: £14,400,000

Price realized: £16,758,000 (US$23,000,000)


Auctioneer Jussi Pylkännen opened the bid at £1.6m and kick-started the intense bidding war. It took just moments to sail through the presale estimate. At the £6.5m mark, only two bidders remained - an online bidder from British Virgin Islands (BVI) and a phone bidder with Tessa Lord, the auction house’s Head of Evening Auction, Post-War & Contemporary Art. 

The two went back and forth to drive the price up steadily until the £8.1m bid. Lord’s client raised the bidding increment from £100,000 to £900,000 for a few times, only to be responded by the BVI bidder’s persistent £100,000 increment every time. The tug-of-war went on until the £12.1m mark and after 23 more bids, the hammer was brought down at £14.4m to Lord’s client with the paddle number 810. It was sold for £16.8m (US$23m) including the buyer’s premium - which Christie’s will donate “a significant portion of,” in supporting the charitable cause.

The price achieved by Game Changer renewed the elusive artist’s own record, which was set two years ago by another oil on canvas, Devolved Parliament, sold for £9.9m in a London sale.


Tessa Lord, Head of Evening Auction, Post-War & Contemporary Art of Christie’s London won the painting for her client, paddle number 810

Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, sold for £9.9m in a Sotheby’s London sale, October 2019


The star lot tonight, Game Changer, was gifted by the artist to the University Hospital Southampton last May. The predominantly black and white painting depicts a young boy lifting a masked nurse, her cape fluttering and arm outstretched. On the side lying discarded in a bin are superheroes Batman and Spiderman - at a time when the unsung heroes as healthcare workers come to the rescue. 

The painting was accompanied by a note that reads: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it's only black and white.” Through the auction house, Banksy also thanked the British Red Cross for authorizing the use of the Red Cross emblem in the painting and a reproduction of the work remains on the wall of the hospital to boost morale and cheer the patients.


The game-changing heroine comes to the rescue

Batman and Spiderman lie discarded in a bin

The work receives overwhelming feedback from the hospital staff 

Two Piccaso portraits stepped in the second and third places, both underbid by Asian collectors. The two works were last seen at New York auctions in 2014 and 2015 and were acquired by the same European buyer. 

Lot 18 | Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse)

Painted on June 18, 1932

Oil on canvas

Signed, dated and inscribed “Boisgeloup 18 juin XXXII Picasso” (upper left)

Dimensions: 40.6 x 40.6 cm


  • Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist, by March 1936
  • Jacques Sarlie, New York; his sale, Sotheby's, London, October 12, 1960, lot 20
  • Perls Galleries, New York (no. 6752), by whom acquired at the above sale
  • Evelyn Sharp, New York, by whom acquired from the above on September 27,1965; her sale, Sotheby's, New York, November 12,1997, lot 18
  • Private Collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale
  • Christie’s, New York, May 6 2014, lot 15
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £9,000,000 - 15,000,000

Hammer price: £12,500,000

Price realized: £14,582,500 (US$20,000,000)


The 1932 oil on canvas work depicts Picasso’s muse and lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Measuring just 40.6 cm on each side, the painting is burst with vibrant colors as a Baroque-style backdrop and fully captures the outpouring of passion when the artist met his young, blonde lover. 

The couple met in 1927, when Picasso, still married at the time, laid eyes on the 17-year-old lady walking out of a department store in Paris. Since 1931, Marie-Thérèse’s image began making more constant presence in the painter’s oeuvre. Her presence went from coded and concealed, to a much more explicit form that saturated his sculptures and paintings with a more radiant and euphoric take. 

Marie-Thérèse Walter, who appeared in Picasso's work a lot


The bidding of the present work started at £7m and it was a two-person bidding battle between the bidders with Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie's Vice-Chairman of 20th & 21st Century Art, in London, and Grace Zhuang, the house's Senior Specialist, who relayed the bids from Hong Kong. It took a total of 14 bids to reach the hammer bid of £12.5m, and was sold for £14.58m with premium, to Bertazzoni’s client.


Lot 19 | Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline)

Painted on November 19 & December 18, 1962

Oil on canvas

Dated “19.11.62. 18.12.” (on the reverse)

Dimensions: 130.4 x 97.8 cm


  • The artist's estate
  • Private Collection, France, by descent from the above
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel, by whom acquired from the above on October 10, 1985
  • Private Collection, Germany, by whom acquired from the above on September 12,1986, and thence by descent; sale
  • Christie’s, New York, May 4 2004, lot 34
  • Private Collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale
  • Sotheby’s, New York, May 5, 2015, lot 26
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £6,000,000 - 9,00,000

Hammer price: £8,200,000

Price realized: £9,659,000 (US$13,248,000)


Another portrait by Picasso came as the third-place of the sale. This time of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, whom he painted over 160 times in his career. Measuring 130.4 by 97.8 cm, the work was painted in 1962, just months after the newlyweds moved into their new home.

In contrast with the more fun colorway with Marie-Thérèse, a strikingly deep tone runs through the backdrop of an elegant, seated portrait of Jacqueline. Her classical beauty enthroned in an armchair, her demeanor dramatically captured. 

The auctioneer opened the proceedings at £5.5m and saw an interested phone bidder represented by Eric Chang in Hong Kong, yet it was the London team who secured the work for £9.7m after fees. 

Lot 8 | Amoako Boafo (B.1984), Self-Portrait

Painted in 2016

Oil on canvas laid down on board

Signed and dated “Amoako M Boafo 16” (lower right)

Dimensions: 94.5 x 111.5 cm

Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2017

Estimate: £60,000 - 80,000

Hammer price: £440,000

Price realized: £550,000 (US$755,000)


An honorable mention goes to another highlight of the sale, which came from an emerging African artist Amoako Boafo. The Ghanaian artist debuted at auction last February, with his work The Lemon Bathing Suit making it to Phillips’ marquee evening sale alongside other much more established names. It was sold far exceeding the expectations for £675,000, against its presale low estimate of just £30,000. 

With the rising popularity of African contemporary art surfacing in the market in recent years, the artworks by the 37-year-old artist are regularly seen in art auctions across New York, London and Hong Kong, realizing prices that often go beyond their estimates.


Amoako Boafo (B.1984), a Ghanaian contemporary artist


The momentum for Boafo was not waning at yesterday’s sale. Self-Portrait, created in 2016, measures an impressive 94.5 by 111.5 cm. It was a client with the London team who took home the present work for £550,000 after premium, which was an over seven-time jump from its presale low estimate of £60,000, once again underbid by Chang's client.

The 55-lot 20th Century Evening Sale yesterday saw a sell-through rate of 96% by lot, totalling a within-estimate £120.3m (US$164.8m).

Auction Summary:

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: 20th Century Evening Sale
Date: March 23, 2021
Lots offered: 55
Sold: 53
Unsold: 2
Sale by rate: 96%
Sale total: £120,255,000