EA artist in the news: Banksy remains the most bankable name in urban art

By Simon de Burton

Sale: Urban art

Location: Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London

Date: Tuesday (January 11). Catalogue at

Need to know: Bonhams made a bold move in February 2008 when it became the first high-end auction house to hold a sale dedicated to so-called urban art. Realising a total of £1.27m and with just two of the 77 lots failing to sell, the event showed there were plenty of well-heeled buyers ready to pay for works by the likes of Banksy, Nick Walker and Adam Neate. However, the next urban art sale was not such a hit. Taking place only weeks after the financial crash of September 2008, it grossed just £117,600 for 79 pieces, while a third attempt in February 2009 managed only a 47 per cent sale rate by value and a total of £260,980. A strengthening market has now prompted Bonhams to revisit the urban art theme, after a gap of almost two years, with this 67-lot sale that could raise more than £450,000.

Highlights: The elusive Banksy remains the most bankable name in urban art and works by him carry the two highest estimates in the sale. “Save or Delete Jungle Book” from 2001 was commissioned by Greenpeace for the environmental group’s campaign against illegal logging and features bound and blindfolded characters from Walt Disney’s Jungle Book being confronted by a hooded axeman against a backdrop of decimated woodland. Copyright issues prevented Greenpeace from using the image and Banksy eventually gave it away to the person who is now selling it – for an anticipated £60,000-£80,000. Another of his works, “Portrait of an Artist” from 1998, is estimated at £50,000-£70,000 while Banksy screenprints are on offer from £2,500. A taste of true graffiti art is provided by part of a backdrop for one of the Clash’s “Combat Rock” gigs in 1983, painted by US-born Futura 2000 as the band performed. The untitled piece is estimated at £15,000-£20,000, while Greg Miller’s pop art-inspired “Phantom Lady” is on offer at £6,000-£8,000. Among the best pieces, however, is “Shark” by DNTT (aka Tony D’Amico). While lacking the immediacy of true street art, the 12ft steel, copper and glass predator is every bit as menacing as the real thing. Snap it up for £8,000-£12,000.

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