Submerged Phone Booth

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Under The Influence, 31 March 2008, lot 29
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Barely Legal: A Three Day Vandalised Warehouse Extravaganza, 15 - 17 September 2006
    Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida, With You I Want to Live: The Gordon Lockley and Dr. George T. Shea Collection, 23 March 2009 - 22 March 2010
    Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida, extended loan, 23 March 2010 - 3 August 2012

  • Literature

    With You I Want to Live: The Gordon Lockley and Dr. George T. Shea Collection, exh. cat., Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida, p. 71 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A world-renowned artist, Banksy uses the medium of street art to draw attention to aspects of politics and society often left unpublished in the mainstream media. His graffiti works provide a voice for urban environments and, in their artistic quality, lean towards aesthetic improvement rather than simple vandalism. Banksy is well known for his installation artwork, which covers similar topics to those characteristic of his two-dimensional works, focusing on anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment ideals. In the combination of dark humour and light-hearted comedy, his often satirical art forms a distinctive method of political and social commentary.

    Submerged Phone Booth, carried out in 2006, features a replica of the classically British Telecommunications phone booth. The booth in question is depicted as emerging from a cement pavement, fragmenting and splitting the surface in its endeavour. As integral to his oeuvre, in this piece Banksy questions contemporary society and events that otherwise remain overlooked or tactfully ignored.

    Made available in the early 1900s, shortly after the success of the recently invented telephone, the telephone booth first appeared in London near railway stations. The boxes provided instant communication for travellers and city-dwellers, serving the needs of the masses. Phone booths once graced virtually every street corner, public office building and hotel, and became a part of the fabric of the culture. Phone booths are now seen as a symbol of London and British culture and serve more as a tourist-attraction for travellers than for any practical value. Yet the iconic constructions are beginning to disappear, falling subject to virtual and technological progression.

    Submerged Phone Booth thus serves as a statement on the demise of what had once been an iconic presence in art, entertainment and society; renowned and quintessentially British, references ranging from Superman to The Beatles to Alfred Hitchcock, have strong associations with the object. In 2006, the year in which Banksy created this piece, Time Magazine named the collective ‘you’ as person of the year rather than maintain the classic tradition of selecting a world–leading persona for the role. The cover features a computer and keyboard with the caption \You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.’(Lev Grossman, You — Yes, You — Are TIME's Person of the Year, Monday 25 December, 2006). The article highlighted the contemporary power of the individual to share their opinion on the net without the need for a publisher and glorified the potential for the anonymous author. Banksy’s Submerged Phone Booth can thus be seen as a protest against the anonymity of modern society. The artist, despite remaining unidentified by the public as an individual, is widely acclaimed as a creator and takes ownership for and identifies himself in all his works. Banksy states: ‘people are taking the piss out of you everyday…They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it… You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it.’ (Banksy, Brandalism, Cut it Out,2004)

    In the present lot Banksy has utilised his power to convert the finite purpose of the phone booth as an egalitarian means of communication giving it a new, infinite function as a piece of art. The once, merely practical object now gains a metaphoric, aesthetic and psychological power. Depicted with only the upper half visible above ground level, the phone booth is not displayed in its full state. The effect created by the fragmented surrounding cement alludes to the sense of crashing movement, in particular the booth rising up from underground. There is a sense of liberation and prevailing power given to the object in its ability to destroy and overcome the otherwise almost indestructible and unyielding quality of cement. The classical bright red colour of the phone booth also succeeds in this endeavour through the comparison between its vivid, attractive qualities with those of the surrounding surface cement. The large scale of the piece adds to its impact and emphasises its striking visual power. As integral to Banksy’s oeuvre, the artist manipulates a classic British trope in an innovative and inventive way to highlight a political and somewhat humorous message. In an interview on his technique Banksy states: ‘Think from outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it’(Advice on Making Stencils, Wall and Piece, London: Century, 2005). Banksy appropriates tradition and custom and injects it with a contemporary and revolutionary artistic contribution.

    Submerged Phone Booth was displayed at the much anticipated ‘Barely Legal’ LA appearance of Banksy’s work in September 2006. The exhibition was intended to draw attention to the legal aspects of graffiti art and was billed as a ‘three-day vandalised warehouse extravaganza’. The exhibition, in which Submerged Phone Booth featured, coined the phrase ‘the Banksy effect,’ created by the journalist Max Foster. Like Andy Warhol before him, Banksy has managed to redefine the definition of art and open a new, contemporary approach to a wider audience. In his pioneering depictions of British iconic objects Banksy has become an icon in himself. Submerged Phone Booth not only signifies the demise of past communication mechanisms in a modern, dynamic world of communication, but also reconstructs its purpose on an elevated level, restoring its power in its new form as a ground-breaking piece of art.

    Banksy’s pioneering approach to art has had so much success that it has coined the phrase “the Banksy Effect”. Rebellious and defiant as he may be, the artist has played a large and prominent role in the shaping of contemporary art. His attention to cynicism and experimentation with misgiving and metaphorical possibility renders his works infinitely pertinent and controversial. The elements of doubt that they provoke add a dimension of uncertainty to the viewer’s perception, encouraging them to view the world in a similarly critical fashion. ‘Some of the fake historical relics I’ve inserted among Bristol’s permanent collection should be entertaining — you can’t tell what’s truth and what’s fiction. It’ll be like walking through a real-life Wikipedia.’ (Banksy, Waldermar, Banksy goes home to shake up Bristol, 2009)

    This particular lot exemplifies this concept of allusion and insinuation. Remaining without a specified, pre-determined template for interpretation, it leaves the viewer open to their own individual reaction. Submerged Phone Booth presents multiple notions to the beholder without demanding a specific response or programmed feedback. Left open to subjectivity, the piece can be applied to every unique experience and opinion. It emphasises the modern state of constant societal change: the uprooting and replacing of the old to forcibly make space for the new. Yet, in the paradox between its physical directness, scale and prominence and its conceptual subtlety, the installation encourages choice and the exploration of alternative. Banksy encourages society to question its collective actions and behaviours instead of excusing situations as uncontrollable and out of reach of the individual. The artist manages to include a subtlety of statement in his renowned and notorious works that creates a delicate, inimitable beauty in its proclamation. Submerged Phone Booth is dramatic, provocative and stimulating, yet retains a sense of the indecisive that renders it particularly poignant and affecting.

  • Artist Bio

    Banksy

    British • 1975 - N/A

    Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a miserable fourteen year old disillusioned with school. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and walls in 1993, and by 2001 his blocky, spray-painted works had cropped up all over the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His aesthetic is clean and instantly readable due to his knack for reducing complex political and social statements to simple visual elements.



    His graffiti, paintings and screenprints use whimsy and humour to satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed — with not even the Royal family safe from his anti-establishment wit.

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16

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, MINNEAPOLIS

Banksy

Submerged Phone Booth

2006
metal, acrylic glass
121.9 x 182.9 x 152.4 cm (47 7/8 x 72 x 60 in.)
This work is unique and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Estimate
£300,000 - 500,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £722,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening

London Auction 15 October 2014 7pm