‘Laugh Now’, a Banksy screenprint from an edition of 150 – £160,000 at Bonhams.

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But a white-glove group of 18 works by the artist appeared on February 25 at its British Cool auction – a sale billed as ‘offering a curated selection of significant artworks and objects which tell the story of British creativity, from 1950 to now’.

Although the 339 lots included ceramics, design and entertainment memorabilia, the top 10 prices all came for Banksy prints, with five records set for individual editions.

Among them was Laugh Now, a highly sought-after print from 2004. The image had originally appeared within a 6m long spray-painted mural created by the artist in 2002 for the Ocean Rooms nightclub in Brighton – a work subsequently removed and then sold at Bonhams in 2008 for £180,000, then again at Phillips in 2013 for £250,000 and recently offered yet again earlier this year in a selling exhibition at Phillips New York.

The print at the current Bonhams sale came out two years after the Ocean Rooms original was produced. It was from a signed edition of 150 published by Pictures on Walls (a larger unsigned edition of 600 was also released).

Estimated at £60,000-80,000, the pitch for the 2ft 3in x 19½in (69 x 50cm) screenprint was seemingly based on the previous highpoint for the edition – no copy having made over £70,000 before (source: Artprice by Artmarket). After a strong competition, it was knocked down at £160,000 – more than doubling the record for this edition and taking Laugh Now into the premier league of the Banksy prints market.


‘Stop and Search’, a Banksy screenprint froman edition of 500 – £80,000 at Bonhams.

Also going over estimate was a copy of Stop and Search from 2007, part of an edition of 500 signed screenprints. The example here was pitched at £50,000-70,000 and was knocked down at £80,000, eclipsing the previous auction record for the edition set by a copy that fetched £76,000 at Tate Ward in October last year.

Overall, the 18 works by Banksy made a combined hammer total of £1.12m, helping raise the overall total of the wider sale to £2.33m including premium. With an average lot value of £62,000, it is hard to think of many artists, modern greats or Old Masters, who can achieve such consistently high prices for their printed output.