Empowering the Freelance Economy

BANKSY’s art just banked £7.5m- the story behind one of the most successful (yet anonymous) freelance artists of modern times

"BANKSY / ‘Show me the Monet’. Image Source: Sotheby's
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“BANKSY ‘Show me the Monet’ just sold in Sotheby’s London auction Tuesday night for UK£7,551,600 including commission! (£6.4 million hammer price),” according to James Nicolls, Chairman, Maddox Gallery Group (London, Los Angeles & Gstaad) and Art TV Presenter & Commentator.

The painting, signed, (143.1 x 143.4) was created in 2005. “It is framed around Monet’s famous water lilies picture, but is filled with jarring images of upside-down shopping trolleys and a traffic cone bobbing in the water,” said Nicolls.

But did the artist really bank all that money?  The Freelance Informer goes to the art press to find out.

Monet musings

Banksy repurposes an iconic image in the western canon: Claude Monet’s career-defining view of the Japanese footbridge in his water garden at Giverny.

“With its tongue-in-cheek pun of a title,” writes Sotheby’s, “Banksy’s painstakingly observed re-painting delivers a complex dialogue that tackles prescient issues of our time, such as the environment and the capitalist landscape of our contemporary moment, not to mention the art establishment and its current identity crisis.”

With a sumptuously rendered orange traffic cone and a thickly textured shopping trolley disrupting the romance of Monet’s iconic Impressionist masterpiece, Banksy’s version is “more twenty-first century fly-tipping spot than timeless idyll. Delivered with the ironic dead-pan immediacy of a punchline, the underlying conceptual complexity at stake here belies its humour,” said the auction house.

Source: Sotheby’s

“The work is such a complex and strong comment on the institution of art, but also a comment on consumerism vs. culture. Today I perceive it as one of the most important works of art in this century so far.”

JACOB THAGE, 2019

On Tuesday night, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, Helena Newman, described one of the strongest and most iconic works by this artist ever to appear at auction.

“An instantly recognisable work that is the holy grail for collectors of this prescient and subversive voice,” said Newman.

Watch this video to find out and discover this highlight of the Contemporary Evening Auction that took place in London.

Rebellious by nature, yet still anonymous

According to MyArtBroker.com, some believe BANKSY to be a member of the band Massive Attack, others have speculated that ‘he’ is not, in fact, one person but many; meanwhile there are still those who believe the artist to be a woman. 

While the artist’s identity is still unknown, and whose oil paintings are only affordable to the rich and powerful, the underlying messages of Banky’s art – on canvas or on the side of buildings – ring true with all socioeconomic facets of society. The rebellion and truth of the works’ artistic and sociological genius are what grabs the viewer’s attention, whether that viewer is a passing boy, bin man, or billionaire.

“The vandalised paintings reflect life as it is now. We don’t live in a world like Constable’s Haywain anymore and, if you do, there is probably a travellers’ camp on the other side of the hill. The real damage done to our environment is not done by graffiti writers and drunken teenagers, but by big business… exactly the people who put gold-framed pictures of landscapes on their walls and try to tell the rest of us how to behave.”

BANKSY QUOTED ON CHANNEL 4 NEWS, THURSDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2005.

How does Banksy bank the money?

From the late ’90s/early 2000s to 2008, British dealer Steve Lazarides acted as Banksy’s agent, according to Artspace.com Lazarides is often credited with helping elevate street art to the realm of fine art by representing and promoting street artists and finding markets for their work. He along with a group of street artists and technicians started Pictures On Walls (POW), a printshop and website that produced affordable prints by street artists and sold them online.

Then in 2018, POW ceased ‘trading.’ Here is part of POW’s statement, courtesy of Artspace: “Despite attempts at price fixing regrettably some POW prints have become worth tens of thousands of pounds. Either unable or unwilling to become part of the art market we once so self-righteously denounced—we called it quits.”

BANKSY reportedly does not sell through galleries, does not have solo or group shows in the traditional sense, but will sell privately, behind closed doors through an outfit called, Pest Control, the proceeds from which are used to realise his projects, which are ‘significant in scale and ambition’. The secondary market sellers are then selling with considerable margins. For example, a $500 print could be resold for up to $25,000.

However, the artist is multifaceted when it comes to creating different lines of revenue to feed his work and lifestyle, such as self-published books that contain photographs of his work. Prior to that in 2005, Random House published Wall and Piece, which was a best-seller in the arts category for several years, according to reports. He directed Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It grossed $5,308,618 at the box office.

To learn more how the artist(s) BANKSY has incorporated the inspiration of Old Masters in his/her work, check out this video.


If you are an active freelance artist and would like to be profiled in The Freelance Informer, please tell us your story by getting in touch at editor@freelanceinformer.com


BANKSY’s Girl with Balloon, which is now sold (438,500GBP, Sotheby’s)
Photo Source: Sotheby’s

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