Banksy raises £14.4million for NHS as Southampton hospital painting sells for record price

It's the highest sum ever paid for one of Banksy's artworks

Banksy has raised a staggering £14.4million for the NHS after a painting he created last year to celebrate the health workers of the UK sold for a record fee.

Game Changer, which first appeared at Southampton General Hospital in May 2020, sold for the huge sum at Christies Auction House on Tuesday (March 23).

The anonymous purchaser paid £16.8million, which includes a buyer’s premium, with £14.4million funding a range of projects by health and charity organisations including Southampton Hospitals Charity to help those in need of support across the UK.

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It’s the highest fee ever paid for the anonymous street art icon’s work, and comes after initial estimates suggested it would fetch between £2.5-£3.5million.

The striking painting famously depicts a young boy playing with a nurse doll who is seen fitted with a cape, an apron and a protective face mask. Next to the boy is a basket that contains discarded Batman and Spider-Man dolls.

While the original fetched the huge sum at Christie’s, a reproduction of the work is to permanently remain at Southampton General Hospital.

The renowned auction house previously hailed the painting for offering “an image of hope” and said it represents a “personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.

Before Tuesday’s auction, the record for a Banksy sale was previously held by his 2009 painting Devolved Parliament, an oil on canvas painting depicting the House of Commons populated by chimpanzees. The painting sold for a then-record of £9.9million in October 2019.

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The auction comes weeks after Banksy’s latest mural emerged on the side of Reading Prison and depicted a prisoner – resembling famous inmate Oscar Wilde – escaping from jail using a rope fashioned from bedsheets tied to a typewriter.

It was subsequently vandalised with the words “Team Robbo”, a reference to one of Banksy’s late rivals in the street art world, who was locked in a fierce rivalry with him before his death in 2014.

As well as the NHS artwork, Banksy also delivered his take on the pandemic in July last year by spray-painting stencils of his signature rat characters sneezing over the inside of London Underground carriages.

They were later removed for violating TfL’s “strict anti-graffiti policy”.

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