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Lot 108AR,○
(B. 1974)
Congestion Charge
29 June 2023, 16:00 BST
London, New Bond Street

Sold for £1,681,900 inc. premium

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BANKSY (B. 1974)

Congestion Charge

tagged; signed and dated Dec 2004 on the overlap
oil on canvas, in the artist's frame

68.5 by 78.7 cm.
26 15/16 by 31 in.


This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control Office and will be issued with an updated certificate to the buyer.

London, Santa's Ghetto
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2004

London, Santa's Ghetto, 2004
Tokyo, Warehouse TERRADA, WHO IS BANKSY?, 2021

Congestion Charge from 2004 is a unique and rare example of Banksy's Vandalized Oil series also referred to as Crude Oils. Bought from Santa's Ghetto by Sir Paul Smith in 2004, the work has remained in the British fashion icon's distinguished private collection ever since and comes to auction for the very first time. Made famous through a now iconic show in 2005 with the same title, the Crude Oils consist of reimagined old master paintings such as such as Show Me The Monet and Sunflowers From Petrol Station alongside modified traditional oils on canvas like the present work. Bought at flea markets around London, Banksy would add his own subversive touches to classical canvas paintings, a congestion charge sign in an otherwise idyllic traditional landscape, injecting new paradoxical meaning into the outdated artwork. This act of subversion serves as a commentary on the commercialisation of art and the collective memory of historical and present events. Banksy's modifications challenge the original context and narrative of the paintings, highlighting the power of art to disrupt and provoke critical thought about societal issues and the role of art in shaping collective consciousness.

As one of the most acclaimed and sensationalist contemporary artists in the world, Banksy's career has garnered a following unlike any other. Firmly written into the art history books, alongside the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Richard Hambleton, Banksy belongs to a rarified group of artist-outcasts whose inimitable styles took seed in their early years as rogue street artists; styles and stories that were hotly embraced by their local contemporary art scene. His political statements and subversive mise-en-scène have adorned cities across the globe at vital junctures in recent history, provoking alternative perspectives and fomenting spectacle and theatre in the art world. With his distinct, cool, disarming wit and charm, Banksy's anti-establishment panache earned him a cult following and unparalleled acclaim. His iconic and universally recognisable works are fiercely sought after by collectors globally.

From his emergent years, Banksy associated with the graffiti subcultures that were abundant across European towns and cities in the 1990s, turning to freehand graffiti as a teenager having been inspired by the thriving graffiti community of his hometown. Turning his hand to stencilling after a close encounter with the police, the new technique enabled him to work quickly and avoid apprehension by the authorities. Unlike many of his graffiti counterparts, whose exaggerated script and cartoon characters had become practically conventional in the modern city, Banksy's bold and iconic stencils combined an astute sense of current affairs, transcendent ideas and a stylised technique that has captured audiences and launched him from outsider street artist to one of the most important political and cultural voices of the twenty-first century.

First introduced in 2003, the year before the present work was executed, congestion charge is a fee imposed on vehicles entering certain areas of London during peak hours to reduce traffic and promote public transportation. Banksy's artwork ridicules the policy, suggesting an absurd placement of the charge sign in a remote farm path that is unusable due to flooding. As with many of Banksy's works, Congestion Charge has a playful and thought-provoking nature. It captures attention and prompts viewers to question the effectiveness and consequences of urban policies. Around the same time, Banksy famously placed some of his Vandalized Oils in prominent galleries, where they would hang unnoticed amongst the institutions permanent collection, at times for days. At the British Museum for example, he secretly placed a modified version of a prehistoric cave painting, adding a figure pushing a shopping cart and a barcode. The act drew attention to the commercialisation of art and the consumer-driven society we live in with the modified artwork remaining on display for several days before being discovered and removed by museum officials. The act allowed Banksy to circumvent the traditional art world and its gatekeepers, making a direct impact on the public sphere and challenging the notions of ownership, authenticity, and the commercialization of art. His disruptive tactics challenged viewers to re-evaluate their perceptions of art and the institutions that house it.

As Banksy's profile and collectability has developed, unique works of exceptional history and quality become still more prized. Presented here for sale is such a painting that demonstrates the British artist's indisputable and enduring currency as social commentator and contemporary artist that has remained in the highly distinguished art collection of Sir Paul Smith for nearly two decades. In common with many of Banksy's most successful works, Congestion Charge intends to amuse the viewer, yet it also aims to engender thought provoking discourse within a broader socio-political context.

Graffiti Art has long been the leading means of expression for the visual counterculture. The irrepressible spontaneity of protest art and then early street art was mirrored in the music of Hip-Hop and dynamism of breakdance. These three pillars dominated much of urban culture in America from the 1970s and had a keen influence on Banksy as it came to impact corresponding areas in Britain in the 1980s. Today Banksy has solidified his position as one of the most well recognised and sought after street artists of the century having completely transformed graffiti culture. His identity, even after more than twenty years, still remains delightedly anonymous and the present auction represents an opportunity to acquire one of the finest examples from the Crude Oils of Banksy's career to date.

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