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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Sotheby's, New York, 9 March 2011, lot 91
    Christie's, South Kensington, 24 September 2013, lot 158
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Banksy presents the world with a conundrum. His work is some of the most iconic of the contemporary age—and yet the Bristol-based graffiti artist remains largely anonymous. Two of only three known versions painted in 2008, his pictures of Abe Lincoln show him confronting and disrupting another icon—one of the most famous Presidents of the United States of America. In these pictures, Banksy has taken the famed face of ‘Honest Abe’ and transformed him into a ghoulish, comical presence. In one of them, googly eyes appear to pop out of his head as though from a skull; in the other, there is a spectral halo around the eyes, as though they were glowing. These potentially sinister traits are deliberately undermined by the stenciled decoration behind him, and in one case, by the green polka dots that cover his face and shirt.

    These two pictures on cardboard—from a series of only three—were created in 2008 when Banksy visited New Orleans, three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. There, Banksy used the still-tattered urban fabric of New Orleans as an eloquent backdrop for his critiques of the situation. Banksy’s works encapsulated sympathy, anger and above all humour, reacting accusingly to the inadequate aid and slow subsequent clean-up operations there. In one case, Banksy painted Abraham Lincoln as a homeless man, pushing a trolley full of goods, using the same stencil he would employ for these works on cardboard. The building upon which Banksy had painted his image of Lincoln has since been demolished to make way for a healthcare facility.

    Banksy’s use of the instantly-recognisable features of Lincoln as a visual theme demonstrated his laser-sharp sense of satire. Lincoln was the great figurehead of the emancipation movement, liberating the slaves of the Southern states—many of whose descendants remain at a socio-economic disadvantage throughout America. During Hurricane Katrina, that legacy of structural discrimination was felt all the more keenly as the poorer black areas of New Orleans suffered the greatest losses when the levee broke. Depicting Lincoln walking the streets, pushing his cart, searingly highlighted the shortcomings of his political descendants. After all, Lincoln, like the Bush administration on whose watch Katrina hit, was a Republican. In these distorted, dystopian depictions, the conundrums provided by historical hindsight are explored to different effect, with Banksy presenting a Lincoln who is less an emancipator or a martyr and more an ectoplasmic boogieman.

    Lincoln was one of the first US Presidents to make use of photography in order to promote himself. In the years leading up to his first presidential election, photographs were disseminated to give him a more human aspect, countering rumours of his unusual height and supposed ugliness. Lincoln’s success in making himself instantly recognisable, combined with his assassination, resulted in a strong pictorial legacy. This in turn makes Lincoln all the more apt as a subject for Bansky’s ghost-train-style interventions. The iconic image has been converted, with Banksy deflating the reverence that often surrounds Lincoln’s legacy, and instead showing him as a comical ghoul.

    Banksy’s mural campaign in New Orleans, where these two Abe Lincoln works were created, received largely positive acclaim, although inevitably some of the works were defaced, removed or otherwise destroyed. Subsequently, Banksy himself would reflect upon the campaign with his customary wit and self-deprecation: ‘I wanted to highlight the state of the clean-up operation. Only later did it dawn on me that if you choose to do this by drawing all over their stuff, you’re actually only slowing down that clean-up operation’ (Banksy, quoted in G. Shove & P. Potter, Banksy: You are an Acceptable Level of Threat, Darlington, 2018, unpaginated).

  • Artist Biography

    Banksy

    British • 1974

    Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a young, disillusioned adolescent. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and city streets in 1993, and by 2001 his signature, stenciled 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 comprehensible due to his unique ability to distill complex political and social statements into simple visual elements.  

    His graffiti, paintings, and screenprints use whimsy and humor to satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. His anti-establishment wit has had an undeniable impact on today’s contemporary street culture. 

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Property from a Prominent Hong Kong Collection

27

Abe Lincoln

2008
initialed and inscribed '☮ Ⓑ ♡ ⁜' lower right
spray paint on cardboard
89.9 x 62 cm. (35 3/8 x 24 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2008, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Estimate
HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 
€112,000-224,000
$128,000-256,000

Sold for HK$1,625,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department
+852 2318 2011

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018