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Street art is saving lives.
Anonymous street artist Banksy broke their own record auction price on Tuesday. But the artist won’t be pocketing the cash.
The piece, titled “Game Changer,” is a painting on canvas of a young child holding a caped nurse doll. The red cross on the doll’s chest is the only pop of color in the black-and-white artwork. At a virtual auction hosted by Christie’s this week, an anonymous bidder paid more than $19.8 million for the piece. The money “will be used to support the wellbeing of University Hospital Southampton staff and patients,” states its auction page.
Banksy donated “Game Changer” to the hospital on May 6, 2020, during the first wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, along with a note stating, “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
“Proceeds from the sale will be used to support health organisations and charities across the UK,” Christie’s tweeted Tuesday.
The work’s Lot Essay on the auction site waxes poetic about “Game Changer’s” relevance to essential workers and COVID-19.
“At a time when the world has come to rely more than ever on the bravery and resilience of its healthcare workers, the image of the boy and his new hero speaks to an unprecedented global zeitgeist,” it reads. “Equally, the scene’s quiet innocence captures the simple, universal values that have come to the fore during the pandemic — family, home and time spent with loved ones.”
“Game Changer” had only previously been seen in-person by front-line medical staff and those admitted for treatment at the hospital, the description continues. The auction marked its first public appearance outside the hospital.
Banksy’s previous highest auction sale price was held by the artist’s painting of primates sitting in a Commons chamber. The 2009 work fetched over $12 million in 2019. In 2018, the winning, $1.4 million bidder at a Sotheby’s auction still ponied up the cash even after the Banksy painting they had purchased self-destructed moments after the hammer fell.
In 2020, an oil painting by the artist depicting a Claude Monet scene blighted by traffic cones and shopping carts, called “Show Me the Monet,” sold for nearly $10 million.