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Banksy painting of Washington’s Mount Rainier which offers brutal critique of climate crisis sells for $6.3m

Banksy’s homage to artist who ‘rallied against the industrial revolution’s destruction of nature’ goes at auction following concerns about its depicted subject

Clara Hill
Wednesday 30 June 2021 20:59 BST
This painting sold for £4.5 million at auction as the glacier it shows melts
This painting sold for £4.5 million at auction as the glacier it shows melts (Christie’s)

A painting by the street artist Banksy depicting a mountain threatened by the climate crisis in Washington has sold at a London auction for more than £4.5 million.

Christie’s told The Independent in a statement that Banksy’s 2009 painting Subject to Availability went for £4,582,500 ($6,325,408) at a sale on Wednesday in London.

The multimillion-pound picture showcases Mount Rainier in Washington, which is suffering from the effects of the climate crisis. This week has seen record high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, reaching in some parts of the state to 44C. This rising heat is causing the 29 glaciers on Mount Rainier to melt.

The National Weather Service sent out an alert for a “unprecedented heat event”, warning of power outages. However, little attention was paid to the “significant impacts” on the mountain’s icy conditions.

Scott Beason, a geologist working with Mount Rainier Park, told the News Tribune on 29 June:I’ve been in the park full-time since 2010, and I’ve never seen anything like this”

To make his point about the climate crisis through his work, Banksy is believed to have drawn inspiration from movements within art that opposed the industrial revolution, such as Romanticism.

“In the present work, Banksy’s deliberate nod to the Romantic era – a period that glorified the sublime majesty of nature – serves to underscore the tragic reality latent in his asterisked quip,” Christie’s auction catalogue entry of the lot reads.

The original painting that Banksy “hijacked” is by Albert Biersadt. According to Christie’s spokesperson Sara Macdonald, Biersadt is a perfect person to riff on for commentary about the climate crisis. He is believed to have “rallied against the industrial revolution’s destruction of nature”, according to Ms Macdonald.

It’s not the first time Banksy has borrowed from his influences. Last year, his painting Show Me the Monet, an interpretation of the impressionist painter’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies sold at auction for $10 million. Instead of the picturesque garden, it was dotted with litter, including a large orange traffic cone.

On the majestic mountain painting, Banksy has contributed to this school of thought by adding:“Subject to availabilty for a limited time period only” as a statement about the destructive force climate change is having on the planet, and raising questions about whether it will be around in a few generations.

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