A Banksy painting of a young boy ditching his Batman and Spider-Man action figures for one of a caped superhero nurse has sold for a world record price of £16.7m, the money going to UK health charities.
The artist made the work as a thank you to the NHS, delivering it out of the blue to Southampton general hospital last May.
Titled “Game Changer” it hung in a corridor providing staff with a daily morale boost. It has now been replaced with a copy to allow the sale at Christie’s of the original canvas.
The work was being sold with an estimate of £2.5m-3.5m. After lengthy internet and phone bidding at Christie’s headquarters in London the hammer came down at £14.4m. After fees, the figure climbed to £16.7m.
The previous record for a Banksy at auction was set by an enormous work titled Devolved Parliament, showing chimpanzees as MPs in the House of Commons chamber. It sold for £9.9m in 2019.
Christie’s said proceeds from the sale will be used to support health organisations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS. It also said it would donate a significant portion of the buyer’s premium to those causes.
Auctioneers said “Game Changer” was an image of hope and represented a “personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.
It first appeared in Southampton with a note attached: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
David French, interim chief executive officer of University Hospital Southampton Trust, said: “This incredible gift will be invaluable in helping us to focus on promoting and protecting the welfare of our staff as they heal and recover from the last year.
“As a charitable gift it ensures our staff have a say in how money is spent to benefit them, our patients and our community and is a fantastic way to thank and reward them for the sacrifices they’ve made.”