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Signed Banksy prints attract global interest - International Art Centre

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Two hand-signed Banksy prints are attracting global interest before the largest sale of works by the controversial British street artist in Australasia.

Eight Banksy prints will be offered at a sale of Important and Rare Art at the International Art Centre in Parnell, Auckland, next week (November 17) alongside a raft of other works of fine art by some of New Zealand’s best known and accomplished artists.

The prints signed by Banksy are Monkey Queen, estimated to bring between $30,000 and $40,000, and Napalm, a 2005 work estimated to bring up to $60,000.

However, while the two signed prints were attracting wide global interest, the director of the International Art Centre, Richard Thomson, said another Banksy work, Love is in the Air was probably one of Banksy’s most provocative and powerful images and is one of his most sought-after works. It was expected to bring between $150,000 and $250,000.

Love is in the Air depicts a protestor wearing a baseball cap and a bandana on the lower half of his face who is about to throw a bunch of flowers. It first appeared in 2003 as large format, stencilled graffiti in Jerusalem soon after the construction of the West Bank wall separating Palestine from Israel.

"In this print Banksy is highlighting the plight of those living in the Gaza Strip and he has created a very strong image of a protester about to throw flowers as a universal symbol of peace and love, rather than a Molotov cocktail or grenade," said Mr Thomson.

He said the eight Banksy prints represented the largest sale of Banksy works in Australia or New Zealand and included Soup Can which was sent from Australia by its Sydney owner for the sale. Soup Can is a play on Andy Warhol's infamous pop art Campbell's Soup Cans and is expected to bring up to $100,000.

All eight works have a certificate of approval from the Pest Control Office, which was set up by Banksy to authenticate his work.

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Several auctions at the International Art Centre this year had achieved world-record prices for Banksy works and Mr Thomson said the interest in next week’s sale, particularly the Banksy works, had generated enquiries from around the world.

"Banksy is a modern artist who has an innate ability to depict an incredibly powerful message in his art in a subtle but very disturbing manner. If you look at Napalm, one of Banksy’s most disturbing works, you see one of the most horrifying images to come out of the Vietnam War when a naked nine-year-old girl was photographed running and screaming with pain after a napalm attack.

"Banksy has combined that image with two childhood fantasy figures, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and McDonald's Ronald McDonald, in a disarming juxtapose, smiling as they lead the terrorised girl away from disaster. No one can be unmoved by that."

Two significant works by Charles Frederick Goldie, recognised as a world leading painter of Maori figures, also feature in the sale.

Harieta Huirua - A Chieftainess of the Tuhourangi Tribe is expected to bring up to $450,000. It was owned by the same family for nearly 90 years before it was sold in 2008 by the International Art Centre to the present owner.

The other Goldie, Tumai Tawhiti, Chieftain of Ngati Raukawa, Te Arawa, is expected to bring between $250,000 and $350,000. It is thought Tumai Tawhiti appealed to Goldie as a subject because of his striking tattoo, probably one of the most prized examples of tattooist art, and because he had participated in cannibal feasts in the 1800s.

"The eight Banksy works and the two Goldies have huge artistic merit in their own right, but with many other very significant works of art in the catalogue, this sale is probably one of the most important we have seen on the New Zealand art calendar," Mr Thomson said.

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