A painting by street artist Banksy depicting a boy abandoning traditional superheroes, such as Batman, in favour of a caped superhero nurse has raised £16.7m for UK health charities.
The painting, entitled ‘Game Changer’ was created by the anonymous artist as a thank-you to health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. The canvas was delivered to Southampton General Hospital last May and was a complete surprise to the staff that work there.
The work arrived at the hospital with a note attached that read: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
Since May, the painting has been displayed in a hospital corridor and has provided a much-needed daily morale boost to staff. However, the original canvas has now been replaced by a copy, to allow the sale at Christie’s auction house to take place.
The artwork was being sold with an estimate of between £2.5m and £3.5m, but the hammer finally came down at £14.4m after an internet and phone bidding auction at Christie’s London headquarters. After fees, the final figure reached £16.7m – a new record for a Banksy canvas.
Previously, the record for a Banksy sold at auction was £9.9m, for his large work named ‘Devolved Parliament’, depicting the House of Commons filled with chimpanzees as MPs.
David French, interim chief executive officer of University Hospital Southampton Trust, said: “This incredible gift will be invaluable in helping us to focus on promoting and protecting the welfare of our staff as they heal and recover from the last year.
“As a charitable gift, it ensures our staff have a say in how money is spent to benefit them, our patients and our community and is a fantastic way to thank and reward them for the sacrifices they’ve made.”
Auction house Christie’s said that Game Changer was an image of hope and represented a “personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.
Christie’s has confirmed that proceeds from the sale— and a significant proportion of the buyer’s premium—would be used to support health organisations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS.