The work by the mystery street artist, titled “Game Changer,” first appeared on a wall at Southampton General Hospital in southern England in May, during the first wave of the pandemic. The black-and-white picture depicts a young boy sitting on the floor playing with a nurse superhero toy, as Batman and Spiderman toy figures lie in a wastepaper basket next to him.
At the time it went up, the hospital said Banksy left a note for workers there saying: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
Christie’s said the sale price was a world auction record for Banksy. The auction house said it will donate a “significant portion” of the buyer’s premium to health organizations.
A reproduction of the picture will stay at the hospital for patients, visitors and staff, Christie's added.
“Banksy is an extraordinary artist who is a constant barometer of nationwide sentiment,” said Katharine Arnold, who heads the European post-war and contemporary art division at the auction house. “With the perfect image of a little boy playing with his superhero doll, a nurse sporting the international Red Cross, he perfectly captured the essence of this moment in time.”
The sale came on the day Britain held a minute's silence to mark one year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the first national lockdown.