In May last year, Banksy debuted Game Changer, a new artwork dedicated to NHS staff. Created during coronavirus lockdown, the original work on canvas marked a departure from his usual political graffiti, depicting a kid playing with a nurse doll in a Red Cross uniform, medical mask, and superhero cape.
Secretively installed in a Southampton hospital, the artwork came with a note from Banksy, reading: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.” The work was intended to go to auction in aid of Southampton Hospitals Charity, distributed to a wider community of healthcare providers who support the NHS, following a period on display (during which someone tried to steal it) and now that auction has arrived, with Game Changer fetching a record-breaking sum for the street artist.
Following a trend established by recent Banksy artworks, Game Changer smashed estimates of £2.5 million to £3.5 million, bringing in a staggering £14.4 million (or £16.7 million with fees). According to a statement, the entirety of that auction price will be donated to “help support health organisations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS”. A “significant portion” of the buyer’s premium will also go toward these causes, says the London auction house Christie’s.
The previous record for a Banksy artwork sold at auction was £8.5 million, or just under £10 million with fees, paid for a satirical painting of MPs as chimpanzees, titled Devolved Parliament. Though Banksy didn’t still own that artwork, he has auctioned off other old paintings in recent years, donating proceeds to help build a Bethlehem hospital. In 2020, he also funded a rescue boat to save refugees trying to reach Europe.
More recently, Banksy shared a new graffiti artwork at Reading Gaol, the site where poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was imprisoned. A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the artwork was shared with a Bob Ross voiceover on the artist’s Instagram.