Banksy's 'Mona Lisa' breaks auction price record

Matthew Beard
Friday 20 October 2006 00:00
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The artist Banksy broke his own price record at auction yesterday, when he sold his unique take on Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa .

The artist underlined his credentials as a heavyweight in the art world when the painting sold for £57,600 to a British-based private collector at Sotheby's Olympia contemporary art sale .

The price for the work outstripped the pre-sale estimate of £15,000 to £20,000. Such demand led to Banksy more than doubling his previous highest price for a piece, £21,000, which was set at another Sotheby's Olympia auction last June.

In his version of the Mona Lisa, Banksy used his familiar stencil technique to depict the subject with spray paint dripping from her eyes.

Also at the auction, a set of six prints of Kate Moss, portrayed in the style of Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe series, fetched about £50,000.

Elli Varnavides, contemporary art specialist at Sotheby's Olympia, said: "It's not often we sell works with spray paints but we'll see a lot more of Banksy as he seems to be building up a global presence. We are very excited about including works by him in his next sale in February."

Last month, Banksy staged a show in Los Angeles that was attended by Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jude Law and Keanu Reeves. Jolie reportedly spent £200,000 on the Bristol-born artist's work. In April, Banksy's move to the mainstream was confirmed when it was revealed that some of his works had been snapped up by the American pop star Christina Aguilera.

Aguilera paid £25,000 for three of the works during a trip to London. She had a private viewing at the Soho gallery where Banksy is exhibited. She bought one original and two prints, including a pornographic picture of Queen Victoria in a lesbian pose with a prostitute.

Banksy is famous for his eye-catching graffiti art and for designing a Blur album cover. The artist, whose real name is thought to be Robert Banks, is becoming well known in the US. He sneaked into four New York galleries and attached his works alongside other paintings and has daubed graffiti over buildings in Los Angeles, where Aguilera lives.

His profile was raised last year when he was the focus of a six-page article in an Esquire edition dedicated to "geniuses". His previous efforts also include a 3.5-ton bronze of the Old Bailey's statue of Justice wearing thigh-high PVC boots and a suspender belt. He also hung a "cave painting" in the British Museum, depicting a primitive man pushing a shopping trolley.

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