Banksy painting to be auctioned for the first time


A group of tribal men point spears at shopping trolleys in a painting by the elusive British artist Banksy.

The artwork painted 16 years ago seems more relevant than ever, as consumerism and human induced climate change dominate the news agenda.

Now it will be presented at an auction for the first time.

Sotheby’s estimates its selling price between $5 million and $7 million, as Banksy’s works are much in demand.

“Trolley hunters from 2005 is a work that Banksy painted for his exhibition ‘Barely Legal’ in Los Angeles in 2006. It’s a large scale canvas hand-painted work depicting a tribe of hunter-gatherers raising their spear at a group of shopping trolleys,” says Alex Branczik, Chairman at Sotheby’s, Modern & Contemporary Art, Asia.

“At the time, it was painted as an indictment of consumer culture and as an expression of how far we have come as human beings from our original human spirit.”

And the theme of the painting, consumerism, reflects issues facing the world today.

“I think the amazing thing about many of Banksy’s images is just how prescient they are. And while this was painted at the time as an indictment of consumerism, I think when you look at this painting today at a time where you know, the world is almost stopped because of supply chain dysfunction, you’ve got queues in ports, you’ve got shopping shelves empty of toilet paper, you’ve got fuel stations without dry of fuel. You’ve got the president of the United States standing on camera saying that some toys will not be on the shelves this Christmas. I think the irony here is that this picture really points to how the real fragility of our consumer culture and how our blind, previous blind faith in consumerism is actually being shaken to the core by this current crisis,” says Branczik.

The AP obtained exclusive access to the painting while it was transiting in the London office of Sotheby’s before being shipped to New York, where it will be auctioned.

“‘Trolley Hunters’ will be one of the flagship works of an auction called ‘The Now’ at Sotheby’s New York on 18 November. It’s an important sale. It’s the first time that we’ve done the sale of 21st century contemporary arts in an evening sale format. The work will be sold alongside major works by the likes of Yoshitomo Naro, Lisa Brice, Mark Bradford, some of the great names of painters today. And I think, with this work, you know, Banksy really is the zeitgeist. A couple of weeks ago in London, we sold that shredded painting “Love is in the bin” for over 18 million pounds. The estimate on this painting is $5 million to $7 million, and I’d be interested to see what it does,” says Branczik.

With such a powerful meaning conveyed on this canvas, the public may wonder how this critique of consumerism doesn’t apply to the contemporary art industry as well.

”I think it’s a shock for Banksy himself that his works have become so valuable. And I think as an artist, he does give much of his own proceeds away to charities and makes a lot of great gestures around the world. So I think for him, that certainly would be the case. But you’d have to ask him. I can’t speak on his behalf,” says Branczik.

Ironically, the painting’s journey to the U.S. had to be delayed by a few days because of a shortage of long-haul cargo flights — it will arrive in time for the auction.

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