Is this weekend’s Banksy auction flop a harbinger of ill for the near term fate of low and midpriced contemporary works?

September 28th, 2008

Monkey Queen by Banksy
Monkey Queen by Banksy, via Lyon and Turnbull

Despite an initial reluctance to identify the works as his, five pieces confirmed to be made by prolific and secretive graffiti artist Banksy went up for auction in Central London last night on September 27th. However, in a marked departure from other, recent high profile contemporary art auctions by popular artists, this time no records were broken. In fact, the Lyon and Turnbull auction struggled to drum up enough interest to meet the lower end of estimates, with some lots even being withdrawn from the auction altogether. In fact, more than two thirds of lots in the auction remained unsold when it was over (74 of 270 sold). One shocked expert even went as far as calling the auction “a bloodbath,” according to the UK’s Independent. Other artists whose works were auctioned included Kate Moss, Sam Taylor-Wood (who recently split with Jay Jopling, owner of the White Cube gallery), Peter Doherty, and Sean Scully, among others.

A prevalent opinion of art market followers is that the recent auction success on the higher end from artists such as Damien Hirst may be due to an artificial propping up of the sales from direct marketing to new buyers such as Russians and other new found pools of wealth by well oiled marketing machines such as Sotheby’s. However, for the bread and butter lower priced works, there perhaps simply is no escaping that there is less confidence and less money in the system overall.

Banksy Official Website
Lyon and Turnbull: Sale 222 page

Banksy’s artworks fail to shift [BBC News]
Banksy Works Go Unsold; Buyers Stay Away From Urban-Art Auction [Bloomberg]
Banksy Won’t Say if Works for Sale Are His
[Gawker]
Art Sale Moss-acre [Independent]

Gangsta Rat by Banksy
Gangsta Rat by Banksy, via Lyon and Turnbull. The work was expected to bring in £30,000 but failed to sell at all.


Fungle Junk by Banksy via Artnet. The work is a mural painted on the side of a van. The piece was expected to sell for £150,000 but was withdranwn from the auction after a bid was made for half that price.

Toxic Mary by Banksy
Toxic Mary by Banksy, via Lyon and Turnbull

Other works on offer included ‘Who needs lipstick when you have blood?’, a Kate Moss self-portrait in lipstick and blood–albeit not hers. The blood, used to inscribe the title of the portrait, is in fact from her former boyfriend Pete Doherty, whose work was also on sale. Moss’ lot sold for just over 33,000 pounds, right outside of its lower estimate. Doherty’s work failed to reach its reserve price; Sam Taylor-Wood, Sean Scully and other artists were also unable to meet their reserve prices.

Who Needs Blood When You\'ve Got Lipstick by Kate Moss
‘Who needs blood when you’ve got lipstick,’ a self portrait by Kate Moss, via The Independent

One Nation Under CCTV by Banksy
One Nation Under CCTV by Banksy, via Wikimedia

No Loitering by Banksy
No Loitering (2008) by Banksy, via Wikimedia

Banksy
Rat by Banksy, via Gawker

Banksy
A work by Banksy, via LAist