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.