'Weston Super Mare', an acrylic on canvas from 1999 by Banksy – £610,000 at Bonhams.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The 46-lot sale on October 22 posted a hammer total of £4.2m with 35 lots sold (76.1%). The sold-by-value rate though was 92.3%, reflecting the fact that almost all of the top lots found buyers.

These included two rarely available paintings by the Bristol graffiti artist which topped the sale. First up was Oh My God, a unique spray paint and emulsion on metal depicting a woman on the phone. The work was tagged, signed and dated and was accompanied by a Pest Control certificate of authenticity.

It had appeared at Banksy’s debut show in the US in Los Angeles in 2006 (the Barely Legal exhibition) and had changed hands twice since then. The vendor had acquired it from the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica in 2011. At Bonhams, it sold on low estimate at £700,000 – just outside the top 10 prices at auction for Banksy (source: Artprice by Artmarket).

Making a lesser price but bringing more competition was an earlier work, Weston Super Mare from 1999. The vendor had bought it at Sotheby’s Olympia in June 2006 where it was knocked down at £7500. Here it was estimated at £400,000- 600,000, demonstrating the phenomenal growth in the artist’s fame and market since then.

The work also came with a Pest Control certificate even though it pre-dated the existence of the authentication service (Pest Control continues to offer to assess works retrospectively).

The subject of the seaside town near Banksy’s native Bristol (and the location of his 2015 theme park Dismaland) is a popular one in the artist’s oeuvre and gave rise to a series of screenprints in 2003-4.

While the highest price at auction for one of these prints is £30,000, this 2ft 6in (77cm) square acrylic on canvas was in a different commercial category due to both its medium and also for being one of the earliest works by Banksy ever to become available.

At the Bonhams sale, it drew a fierce contest and was knocked down at £610,000.

Auerbach portrait

Also bringing interest was a Frank Auerbach (b.1931) portrait that had been selected by the artist himself to feature in his exhibition at Tate Britain in 2015-16.

J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI, a 22 x 20in (56 x 51cm) oil on canvas from 1988, had been acquired by the vendor directly from the Marlborough Gallery in London, Auerbach’s dealer since the 1960s.


'J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI' by Frank Auerbach – £560,000 at Bonhams.

The sitter was Juliet Yardley Mills, arguably the painter’s most important sitter whom he first painted in the early 1960s. This example was a strong commercial proposition on account of the attractiveness of its colour, form, composition and relative market freshness.

Estimated at £380,000-450,000, it was knocked down at £560,000.