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Yesterday, Sotheby’s closed its online sale solely featuring prints by British street artist Bansky. The sale achieved a total of £1.1 million ($1.4 million) offering a total of 25 lots and seeing a 96% sell through rate.
The sale was led by the artist’s most widely recognized image Girl with Balloon realizing a price of £375,000. Among the other works which saw high bidding was Bomb Love, a 2003 screenprint featuring the image of a young woman embracing a bomb against a bright pink background. The work saw a total of 22 bids before reaching its selling price of £27,500 and more than doubling its high estimate of £9,000. The house also boasted new auction records for a selection of Banksy’s iconic prints including Gangsta Rat, Love Rat, Di-Faced Tenners, Applause and Grannies.
The urban and street art category falls into an obscure space in the secondary contemporary art market. An anti-commerical method among these anonymous figures drives a more diversified market that relies on various channels in the digital and public sphere. Invader, a French street artist — whose work recently saw a new auction record last month in a Paris’s Artcurial Urban Art auction — the artists is notorious for designing a game system among his following through social media that allows them to track his public works and tags throughout various European cities. Many of these artist-producers use their own platforms to release editioned collectible works and brand collaborations that later surface at auction. They also publish cues to access public installations that are behind larger projects, regulating what is seen and where. The urban and street art market has created its own sphere of exclusive engagement. In this way, collecting street art is in of itself the competitive challenge for buyers.
In a shift of focus onto online sales amid auction house closures during the coronavirus, the top houses have also been reporting spikes among new buyers. In this sale, which was originally slated to be held in London, Sotheby’s emphasized that 47% of the buyers were new to the company. Urban and Street art sales held this season at Artcurial and Heritage auctions have sustained a high level of interest among their collecting base. Interest in works by street art mainstays like Bansky, KAWS, RETNA and Invader continue to see demand despite a slowed market. With virtual buying now standing in for the usual live auctions, the lower level edition sales have proven to be resilient.