Banksy's 'Game Changer' sells for record £16.7m at auction raising funds for UK's NHS

The painting depicts a young boy playing with a superhero nurse doll

(FILES) A handout picture recieved from University Hospital Southampton on May 7, 2020 shows a member of staff posing with an artwork by street artist Banksy called "Game Changer", showing a boy playing with a nurse superhero toy with figures of Batman and Spiderman discarded in a basket as a tribute to NHS staff who are continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, on a wall at the University Hospital Southampton, southern England.  A painting by UK street artist Banksy is expected to raise millions of pounds for the staff of Britain's state-run National Health Service (NHS) at auction on March 23, 2021. The painting by the elusive artist, titled "Game Changer", first appeared  at Southampton General Hospital on England's south coast during the first wave of the global health crisis last May.

 - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL SOUTHAMPTON / STUART MARTIN " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - MANDATORY MENTION OF ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL SOUTHAMPTON / Stuart MARTIN / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL SOUTHAMPTON / STUART MARTIN " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - MANDATORY MENTION OF ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

A painting by UK street artist Banksy depicting a young boy playing with a superhero nurse doll sold for a record £16.7 million ($23m) at auction on Tuesday, with the proceeds going to National Health Service charities.

Game Changer, which was unveiled last May at University Hospital Southampton, pays tribute to frontline health workers in their fight against Covid-19.

“Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens up the place a bit, even if it’s only in black and white,” Banksy wrote in a note left with the painting when it first appeared.

The monochrome artwork shows a young boy lifting a nurse, her arm stretched and wearing a cape, while the superheroes Batman and Spider-Man lie in a bin nearby.

The painting had carried an estimate of £2.5-3.5m and auction house Christie’s said proceeds would “support the wellbeing of University Hospital Southampton staff and patients”.

Banksy’s collection of works - in pictures

Christie’s said the painting was a departure from Banksy’s usual irreverent style and instead “a personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic”.

“As an artwork, however, it will remain forever a symbol of its time: a reminder of the world’s real game changers, and of the vital work they perform,” the international art seller said.

Speaking before it was sold, Katharine Arnold of Christie's described Game Changer as "a universal tribute to all those fighting worldwide on the front line of this crisis".

“At a time when we can dare to hope once more and look at life beyond the pandemic, it is important to reflect on the many symbols of strength and hope we have seen internationally since the beginning of 2020,” she said.

The auction – streamed live by Christie’s – took place as the UK on Tuesday marked a year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the country into its first lockdown.

A minute's silence was held to remember the more than 126,000 people who have lost their lives since then because of the coronavirus.

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