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Banksy is having (another) moment. Following the launch of his first official exhibition in 14 years at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow (Goma), Bonhams’ post-war and contemporary art sale in London (29 June) will include the headline piece Congestion Charge (2004), part of the Vandalized Oils series. The work has an estimate of £1.2m-£1.8m.
The oil, which ridicules the eco-friendly congestion charge introduced in 2004 to prevent vehicles entering central London, was consigned by the UK fashion designer Paul Smith. The Turner-style painting was bought by Smith in 2004 at Banksy’s Santa’s Ghetto exhibition.
“Banksy’s Vandalized Oils have consistently proven to be amongst the most valuable and highly coveted works in his oeuvre, and Congestion Charge is no exception,” says Ralph Taylor, Bonhams global head of post-war and contemporary art, in a statement.
The Vandalized Oils paintings, or Crude Oils works as they were otherwise known, were shown in an infamous exhibition held in 2005. Few people were willing to host the Crude Oils show—chiefly because the guerrilla street artist wanted 200 live rats scurrying around the show. But the London collectors Roland and Jane Cowan were unperturbed and offered Banksy the basement at 100 Westbourne Grove in west London.
The couple bought Show Me the Monet (2005)—Banksy’s parody of Claude Monet’s Impressionist water lilies and the crowning piece of the exhibition—which sold for £7.6m (with fees) at Sotheby’s in 2020.
Smith, meanwhile, has form for selling Banksy pieces. In 2021, he consigned the work Sunflowers from Petrol Station to Christie’s New York. The Vandalized Oils work, estimated at $12m to $18m, sold for $14.5m (with fees).
Smith told Christie’s at the time: “What initially attracted me to Banksy was his confidence and clarity to communicate something exactly as it is. I was so impressed by his observations of what was happening in the world and that remains true of the work he’s doing today. His political statements are completely on point, really profound, really brave and consistently delivered in a modern way.”