A painting by the British street artist Banksy sold for a record £16.75 million ($23.1 million, 19.4 million euros) on Tuesday, with proceeds going to benefit state health service staff.
The painting, “Game Changer”, sold to an unnamed buyer for £14.4 million plus costs — the highest ever for a Banksy painting — after fierce bidding at Christie’s auction house in London.
The signed oil painting by the elusive artist shows a boy holding aloft a nurse doll while Batman and Superman figures are consigned to a bin.
It first appeared at Southampton General Hospital on England’s south coast, during the first wave of the global coronavirus crisis in May last year.
The artist — who first emerged out of Bristol’s graffiti scene in southwest England in the 1990s — left a note with the painting thanking hospital staff for their work battling the pandemic.
“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens up the place a bit, even if it’s only in black and white,” he wrote.
Proceeds from the auction will go to NHS charities and a reproduction of the piece will continue to hang at the Southampton hospital.
The auctioneer hailed Banksy’s “incredible gesture” in donating the work.
“It is a Game Changer in every sense,” he said of the painting.
The auction price swiftly exceeded the pre-sale estimate of between £2.5 million ($3.5 million, 2.9 million euros) and £3.5 million.
Masked intermediaries talking into mobile phones relayed bids from around the world during the nail-biting sale.
The previous record auction price for a Banksy work in October 2019 was nearly £9.9 million at Sotheby’s auction house for “Devolved Parliament,” a painting showing parliament populated by chimpanzees.