Banksy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 24, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Neal Auction Company, New Orleans, 13 July 2013, lot 353
    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 unique 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


    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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Property from a Prominent Hong Kong Collection


Abe Lincoln

initialed and inscribed '☮ Ⓑ ♡' lower right
spray paint on cardboard
89.9 x 59.9 cm. (35 3/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2008, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

HK$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for HK$1,625,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 25 November 2018