A Banksy painting owned by the fashion designer Sir Paul Smith is to be auctioned at Bonhams. Congestion Charge (2004) is a rare vandalised oil painting by the elusive British art rebel Banksy. It leads Bonhams’ Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale on Thursday, 29 June, in New Bond Street, London.
Sir Paul Smith acquired the work from Banksy’s Santa’s Ghetto exhibition in London in 2004, and it has remained in his distinguished collection ever since. The result, which has never been offered at auction, is estimated at £1,200,000-1,800,000.
Over several decades, Banksy’s irreverent humour and perceptive satire of British social and political issues have earned him widespread recognition and international acclaim. Characterised by a bold stencilling technique, his universally recognisable works are fiercely sought after by collectors globally. His Vandalised Oils, also referred to as Crude Oils, were made famous through the now iconic 2005 show of the same title and consist of reimagined Old Master paintings such as Show Me The Monet and Sunflowers From Petrol Station, alongside modified traditional oil paintings the artist discovered at flea markets around London, such as Congestion Charge (2004). Banksy famously placed some of his Vandalised Oils in prominent galleries where they would hang unnoticed amongst the institution’s permanent collection, sometimes for days. The act allowed him to circumvent the traditional art world and its gatekeepers, directly impacting the public sphere and challenging the notions of ownership, authenticity, and the commercialisation of art.
Congestion Charge (2004) tackles some of Banksy’s most returned-to themes by confronting issues such as urban life, pollution and global warming. Painting over the classical-style oil painting, Banksy injects an urgent sense of contemporary politics into the charming pastoral scene by adding the incongruous detail of a congestion sign, ridiculing the congestion charge policy introduced in London to reduce peak-hour traffic the year before this work was painted. The absurd placement of the sign urges viewers to question the effectiveness and consequences of urban policies whilst being characteristic of Banksy’s distinctly playful and witty delivery of thought-provoking commentary.
Bonhams Global Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Ralph Taylor, commented: “Presented here for sale is a painting demonstrating Banksy’s indisputable and enduring currency as a social commentator and contemporary artist. Banksy’s Vandalised Oils have consistently proven to be among his oeuvre’s most valuable and highly coveted works- and Congestion Charge is no exception. First unveiled and exhibited at Santa’s Ghetto in 2004, this painting is one of the first examples of his series, which translate Banksy’s provocative interventions in urban spaces into the elite spaces of high art. Its unique provenance, having remained in the collection of the pioneering British designer Sir Paul Smith for nearly two decades, only heightens its importance and will no doubt excite collectors.”
Sir Paul Smith, one of Britain’s foremost designers, has a long-held interest in art – a fascination often reflected in his designs. Having collected a variety of artworks throughout his career, Sir Paul Smith has always shown a discerning eye and unwavering support for Banksy, having acquired his works early in the street artist’s career.
As a brand, Paul Smith is renowned for its creative spirit, which combines tradition and modernity. From its origins in a tiny shop in Nottingham, England, in 1970, Paul Smith has grown into a global business, selling to five continents. Starting with one men’s collection, the business has grown to comprise collections for men, women, and children, including shoes, accessories, fragrances, and home furnishings. Paul Smith has shops globally – including in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo – and stages fashion shows at men’s Paris Fashion Week twice yearly.