Banksy art South Africa
Banksy "Happy Choppers" (Wikimedia Commons)
  • South African art collectors have an opportunity to bid on work produced by renowned street artist, Banksy.
  • The editioned silkscreen, Happy Choppers, will be auctioned by Strauss & Co on Tuesday, with a reserve price of R900,000.
  • Banksy’s work is one of the most valuable pieces on offer.
  • Fellow street illustrator Mr Brainwash and local artist William Kentridge also have pieces on offer which are also expected to fetch more than R1 million.
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Artwork by the renowned English street artist Banksy will go on auction in South Africa this week, with the editioned silkscreen likely to fetch between R900,000 and R1.2 million.

A collection of contemporary art, featuring works by both local and international artists, forms part of a virtual live auction hosted by Strauss & Co. The live sale, which officially began on Sunday, features modern, post-war and contemporary art, decorative arts, jewellery and fine wine.

Banksy’s Happy Choppers, which first appeared as a sprayed mural at Whitecross Street Market in central London in 2002, is one of the most expensive artworks on offer within the contemporary collection. The artwork will be auctioned on Tuesday.

The editioned silkscreen – numbered 264 out of a limited 750 – is 67cm by 48cm in size and depicts a squadron of military helicopters juxtaposed by a pink bow. The work, which has been reproduced by Banksy in acrylic and stencil on board, was originally created as sharp criticism of military intervention and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.

Happy Choppers is regarded as a significant piece which coincided with Banksy’s transition from a relatively unknown graffiti artist to a mainstream illustrator featured in major exhibitions outside of England in the early 2000s.

A total of 750 Happy Choppers pieces were released in 2003, including 150 signed prints – 33 of which are artist’s proofs – and 600 unsigned prints.

A once-off spray-painted version of Happy Choppers sold for $140,800 (R2 million) in 2016. A signed screen-print edition – numbered 79 of 750 – was sold for £114,168 (R2.3 million) by Christie's in 2020.

The artwork being auctioned by Strauss & Co is not a signed version but is authenticated by the Pest Control Office which is listed as the “parent/legal guardian for the artist Banksy”.

On auction alongside Banksy are two artworks by fellow street artist Mr Brainwash whose real name is Thierry Guetta. The French-born artist’s Madonna is a combination of silkscreen and spray paint on canvas, and is estimated to be worth between R900,000 and R1.2 million (with the lower estimate defined as the reserve amount by Strauss & Co).

Mr Brainwash’s Portrait of Martin Luther King – numbered 57 of 88 – is another screen-print on auction and is valued at between R25,000 to R35,000.

“Mr Brainwash astutely and cheekily raises questions about originality in this important and also original work,” explains Matthew Partridge, a senior art specialist at Strauss & Co. “Madonna is original in that it is a unique work, not an editioned multiple. The work dates from a crucial renaissance period for the Los Angeles art scene.”

And while works by Banksy and Mr Brainwash are considered some of the most high-profile on auction within the contemporary category, acclaimed South African artist, William Kentridge, features prominently in Tuesday’s collection.

Kentridge’s Head, created in 1993, has the highest reserve price (R1 million) of any artworks in the contemporary category.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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