“Next week the four people charged with pulling down Colston’s statue in Bristol are going on trial. I’ve made some souvenir shirts to mark the occasion. Available today 11th December from various outlets in the city (all proceeds to the defendants so they can go for a pint). One per person, £25 each plus VAT. Details on the Ujima Radio breakfast show from 9am.”
A few hours later, the first Colston-tees started popping up at eBay at GBP 1,250.00 apiece.
At 4 PM, Banksy’s PR woman Jo Brooks communicated: “Banksy t-shirt drops in Bristol have now sold out.”
The donation was made public on 4 December at an exhibition curated by Grayson Perry at Bristol Museum. Banksy contributes with the original stencil to the piece he did on the wall of the Reading GAOL prison in March 2021. The idea is that Reading Council now sells the stencil and uses the proceeds to turn the derelict prison into a permanent art centre. It’s expected to fetch up to GBP 10 mn in a private sale.
In Banksy’s own words:
“I had very little interest in Reading until I was on a rail replacement bus service that went past the jail. It’s rare to find an uninterrupted 500m-long paintable surface slap bang in the middle of a town; I literally clambered over the passenger next to me to get a closer look. I promised myself I’d paint the wall even before I knew what it was. I’m passionate about it now, though. Oscar Wilde is the patron saint of smashing two contrasting ideas together to create magic. Converting the place that destroyed him into a refuge for art feels so perfect we have to do it.”
After a 20-minute bidding duel, the hammer landed at GBP 14,400,000. With the Buyers Premium, the buyer has to cough up GBP 16,758,000 – a new auction record for a Banksy canvass. The seller is NHS and the Southampton University Hospital, after receiving the piece in donation by Banksy. According to the lot sheet from Christie’s: “The proceeds will be used to support the wellbeing of University Hospital Southampton staff and patients.”
The Guardian published the exclusive story on 27 August:
The British street artist Banksy has financed a boat to rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from north Africa, the Guardian can reveal. The vessel, named Louise Michel after a French feminist anarchist, set off in secrecy on 18 August from the Spanish seaport of Burriana, near Valencia, and is now in the central Mediterranean where on Thursday it rescued 89 people in distress, including 14 women and four children. It is now looking for a safe seaport to disembark the passengers or to transfer them to a European coastguard vessel.
Banksy’s involvement in the rescue mission goes back to September 2019 when he sent an email to Pia Klemp, the former captain of several NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people over recent years.
“Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”
Klemp, who initially thought it was a joke, believes she was chosen by Banksy due to her political stance. “I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she told the Guardian.
She has made clear that Banksy’s involvement in the operations is limited to providing financial support. “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”
With a top speed of 27 knots, the Louise Michel would be able to “hopefully outrun the so-called Libyan coastguard before they get to boats with refugees and migrants and pull them back to the detention camps in Libya”, said Klemp.
Banksy’s take on the refugee crisis went for 2,235,000 GBP including buyer’s premium at Sotheby’s “Rembrandt to Richter” auction, which was more than double the initial estimate. The selling party was ABCD Bethlehem – a Palestinian charity, after receiving the piece as a donation from Banksy. The information sheet for the lot continues: “All proceeds will go towards building a new acute stroke unit and purchasing children’s rehabilitation equipment for BASR hospital in Bethlehem.”
The triptych has been on display at Walled Off Hotel since the opening in March 2017. Due to the corona situation, the hotel remains closed until further notice. The question is whether the hotel will open again or if the sale marks the beginning of the end for the iconic hotel. Hopefully not. See previous post: The Walled Off Hotel. Palestine, March 2017.