Banksy altered sea view triptych sells for £2.2m at auction

By Mark Brown Arts correspondent

A Banksy triptych, which aims to make a powerful political statement on the global migrant crisis, sold for £2.2m at an auction in London that also featured works by Rembrandt, Picasso, and Bridget Riley.

The three paintings were offered by Banksy to raise money for a hospital in Bethlehem.

Entitled Mediterranean Sea View 2017, the three traditionally framed paintings appear to be Romantic-era seascapes but the lifebuoys and orange life jackets washed on to the shore tell a different story. Banksy made the additions to the three found paintings.

The triptych had been estimated at a value of £800,000 to £1.2m, but after a final bidding tussle between two anonymous buyers it was sold at Sotheby’s for £2.2m, the second-highest price ever for a work by the artist, according to the auction house.

The paintings were originally created for Banksy’s Walled Off hotel in Bethlehem, which boasts “the worst view of any hotel in the world” – a reference to the barrier it looks out on to that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories. The piece hung in the lobby of the hotel since 2017 but is now being sold to raise money for a new acute stroke unit and buying children’s rehabilitation equipment for the BASR hospital in Bethlehem.

The Rembrandt to Richter auction in London was unusual in that it covered five centuries of art from Old Masters to contemporary work. Helena Newman, chair of Sotheby’s Europe, said the wide range catered to “a new generation of collectors (who) show less concern with the traditional art market categories of the past”.

She added: “With the global art world calendar having shifted, we too have seized the opportunity to do things differently.”

The sale also set a world record price for a Rembrandt self-portrait, dated 1632, which sold for £14.5m. That beat the previous Rembrandt self-portrait auction record of £6.9m, although fell short of the wider Rembrandt auction record of £20.2m for Portrait of a Man, in 2009.

The 1632 self-portrait by Rembrandt, entitled as “wearing a ruff and a black hat”, is one of only three of the artist’s self-portraits remaining in private hands and, Sotheby’s said, was the only one likely to ever come to the market. Almost all the remainder are in large museum collections.

A Bridget Riley painting, Cool Edge, being sold by British Airways to help out the company during the coronavirus crisis sold for £1.9m – well ahead of the £800,000-£1.2m estimate.

In total, 70 lots were offered at the live-streamed auction with Sotheby’s experts in London, New York and Hong Kong all bidding on behalf of anonymous clients across the world.