Banksy and 21st Century Editions



On 15 March, Christie’s hosted a new auction format based on the success of the last four sales devoted to Banksy limited editions, all entitled I can’t believe you morons actually buy this sh*t. Last year’s session, on the same date, generated a record total of $6.1 million. This latest session – once again brazenly titled in reference to one of the artist’s serigraphs – placed Banksy in the broader context of work by other artists who regularly produce ‘editions’ in the 21st century, including Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Jeff Koons, STIK, Damien Hirst and David Shrigley.

Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge: Banksy and 21st Century Editions

A total of 72 works, of which 15 by BANKSY, were offered for sale online between 1 and 15 March. Generating substantially less than the previous formats, the sale nevertheless hammered $3.4 million. Among the best results, Grayson PERRY stole a place in the top 10 from Banksy with his Map of Days, a rare print (a proof not included in the edition) and signed by the artist, which fetched $82,000. On 14 June last, at Phillips in London, number 15 (in blue) of the same series fetched a record price of $106,700. The prices are indeed soaring for screenprints by Grayson Perry, who is primarily collected for his famous ceramics.

A work titled Lovers (Yellow) by London-based street artist Stik – whose auction turnover has been steadily increasing for five years – doubled its high estimate, fetching $74,000. Yayoi Kusama’s two serigraphs: Pumpkin Red (59/100) and Yellow (35/200) fetched respectively $52,600 and $62,400, also doubling their starting prices. As for the lithograph I am alone by Yoshitomo Nara, it found a buyer for $62,400, a good result for an edition of 75. Indeed, Japanese artists KUSAMA and NARA are two mainstays of the Contemporary prints market.

But the sale’s eight best results were for Banksy works. A print from his famous Girl with Balloon (23/150) series sold for nearly $500,000. This ‘iconic’ print depicting a girl reaching for a heart-shaped balloon was originally a series of stencil murals first painted in London in 2002. According to James Baskerville, prints specialist at Christie’s: “Editions of this emblematic artwork are the most sought-after creations by Banksy on the auction market”. On 2 March 2021, the same image reproduced in 5 copies on a metal plate sold for $3.4 million at Sotheby’s London.

With the emergence of new online buyers, demand for works by Banksy, Murakami and Nara has accelerated over the past two years and looks set to continue growing.

Girl and balloon (2006) (id:26420547)

Banksy, Girl and balloon (2006)

Banksy – a record year

In 2021, Banksy’s auction results gave him 8th position in our ranking of the world’s top-performing artists on the global art auction market with a total of 1,186 works generating nearly $206 million. Moreover, his personal auction record reached a new high when his famous Love is in the Bin sold for $25.4 million at Sotheby’s. Two years earlier, the same work partially shredded in the middle of its sale and BBC journalist Will Gompertz opined that the stunt was such a pivotal moment in auction history that the work had become, de facto, “one of the most important of the early 21st century”. Two years later, the market conformed this opinion, multiplying its ‘pre-shred’ value by almost 20 times. Also last year (in March), Banksy’s canvas Game Changer, a work drawing attention to the key role of caregivers during the covid pandemic, fetched his 2nd best-ever auction result at $23.2 million at Christie’s London, more than four times its estimate.

In the print medium, Banksy’s Girl with balloon (in its various colors, red, purple, pink and gold) was his most popular print on the market having generated 4 of his top 10 results in that medium. In 2021, no less than 76% of Banksy’s works exchanged on the secondary market were prints.


Top 10 results for Banksy prints sold at auction (2021)


With over 11 million followers on Instagram, Banksy is not only the most popular living artist of our time, he is also the most successful on the planet. His annual auction turnover has grown exponentially for five consecutive years: $3 million in 2016, $7 million in 2017, $16 million in 2018, $29 million in 2019, $67 million in 2020, and in 2021 his market accelerated even faster reaching over $205 million in 2021.

At 47 years old, the street artist’s market seems impervious to crises. In fact it would almost appear to have an counter-cyclical quality since it accelerated when the majority of demands contracted. The fact that Banksy has been able to cater to a wide range of price levels, from multi-million-dollar original works, through highly sought-after artist’s proofs, to prints and sculptures in larger and smaller editions, signed or unsigned, would appear to be a key factor in his success. Banksy’s high-volume secondary market is overseen by an authentication system set up by the artist himself, the Pest Control Office. In purely financial terms, $100 invested in a Banksy work 15 years ago is worth $1500 today! (+1,397%), and the progression looks set to continue.

Prints… a booming market

Having generated an unprecedented total of $529 million from more than 143,000 lots in 2021, the prints medium is clear the edge of the secondary art market that is reaching new buyers faster than any other. More affordable than other segments of the art market, its volume of transactions had already increased during the pandemic while other segments contracted. With unique works being both rare and expensive on the market, multiples are clearly a good entry point for those wishing to start collecting at a lower cost.


Artist Work Price Date Auctioneer
1 Andy WARHOL Endangered Species $4,043,860
17/03/2021 Sotheby’s, London
2 Andy WARHOL Marilyn Monroe $3,045,000
12/05/2021 Sotheby’s, NY
3 BANKSY Girl with Balloon (2003) $2,867,442
29/06/2021 Sotheby’s, London
4 Andy WARHOL Flowers (1970) $2,594,536
16/06/2021 Van Ham Kunstauktionen, Cologne
5 Pablo PICASSO Séries 347 $2,190,000
22/10/2021 Christie’s , NY
6 Andy WARHOL Endangered Species (1983) $1,875,000
19/10/2021 Heritage Auctions, Dallas TX
7 HOKUSAI Kanagawa oki nami ura
16/03/2021 Christie’s , NY
8 Gerhard RICHTER Strip (2011) $1,521,844
30/06/2021 Christie’s , London
9 BANKSY Girl with Balloon – Colour AP (Gold) (2004)
25/03/2021 Sotheby’s, London
10 Henri MATISSE Océanie, la mer (1946/48) $1,477,590
29/06/2021 Sotheby’s, London
Top 10 results for prints sold at auction (2021) ©


This ranking offers an overview of the best results in 2021 hammered worldwide for prints (all periods combined). Warhol clearly dominates this ranking with two spectacular series (each editions of 10): Endangered species and Marylin Monroe. In 2021, Banksy’s Girl with Balloon beat Warhol’s Flowers to take third place.
Although, the prices in this ranking are very high (all 7-digits!), they are still substantially lower the $11.7 million paid for David Hockney’s Piscine De Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) (1978) in 2018 at Sotheby’s NY, the best result ever hammered for a print at auction.