From Street Art to Fine Art: The Best Banksy Artworks to Invest In

From Street Art to Fine Art: The Best Banksy Artworks to Invest In

Banksy’s artwork was sought after by Brad and Angelina. But are the political spray-painted murals a good investment?

From Street Art to Fine Art: The Best Banksy Artworks to Invest In
Moriah Costa

Updated Nov 9, 2022

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  • Banksy's Love In The Bin (2018) sold for a record $25 million in 2021.
  • The mysterious artist has been a favorite among celebrity collectors like Steve Aoki, Christina Aguilera, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.   
  • Banksy's political and controversial street art spans cities worldwide. 

  

If there’s a war going on in the world, Banksy is likely making a mural about it. One of the world's best-known graffiti artists, the mysterious artist known only by his graffiti handle put his indelible mark on street culture. Still considered by some as just plain vandalism, Banksy’s signature stencil style has made its way to cities around the globe, often with a political or controversial theme.

Today Banksy’s anti-authoritarian art can go for tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes even millions. The presence of Banksy's artwork can increase the value of a home or create an influx of tourists to a neighborhood. His graffiti is also a favorite among fine art collectors.

Banksy’s artwork has dramatically increased in recent years, with the average price of his work nearly reaching $1 million.

Christina Aguilera scored a deal when she bought three Banksy pieces for £25,000 ($46,000) in 2006. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought £1 million ($2 million) worth of Banksy artwork in 2007, while Steve Aoki’s extensive fine art collection also includes a few Banksy’s.

But who exactly is this mysterious street artist? Why is his artwork worth so much? And, most importantly, how can you invest in a Banksy? The writing's on the wall in the world of investing in Banksy.

Who is Banksy?

No one knows for sure who Banksy, one of the most famous street artists of all time, truly is. The graffiti artist has kept his identity closely guarded, even as his work becomes increasingly popular. When a new Banksy work pops up, it’s usually later confirmed on his Instagram account.

There are a few theories about who Banksy is. One of the strongest theories is that he’s artist Robin Guinngham. This came about after a photo circulated of the Bristol artist in Jamaica with a spray can and stencils. The theory was further refined in 2018, after a piece by Guinngham (thought to be the only piece with his name on it) sold for £4,000 ($5,242) in a wager that he is, in fact, Banksy.

Neither Guinngham nor Banksy have commented on the claim. Others think he could be other graffiti artists like Gorillaz founder Jamie Hewlett or Massive Attack band member Robert Del Naja.

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All we know for sure is that Banksy is British and got his start tagging his way through Bristol in the 1990s. He began developing his style, taking a more sophisticated and politicized stance, until he created the stenciled work he is known for today.

As a result of Banksy’s anonymity, he struggles to maintain a copyright on his work, and his images are often reprinted or repurposed elsewhere without his permission. Since he would need to reveal his name in order to copyright his work, Banksy tried to file an EU trademark on some of his more popular works, like the Flower Thrower. But in 2020, the European Union Intellectual Property Office deemed it invalid as it was filed to get around Banksy’s anonymous persona.

What's the message behind Banksy’s art?

Banksy’s artwork depicts anti-war, anti-consumerism, and pro-environment themes. His work is often seen as a means of protest, even against the art market. Due to his anonymity, Banksy is able to make political statements and pop culture references across countries. His brazen and sometimes controversial approach has only increased the value of his work. 

Take his piece, Love is in the Bin. In 2018, a version of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon image was partially shredded when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s. Featuring his iconic red heart-shaped balloon, it was seen as performance art—a social commentary on the art world. Renamed, the piece was auctioned in 2021 for £18.5 million ($25 million), making it the most expensive Banksy ever sold.

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'Love is in the Bin' sold for a record $25 million in 2021. 

Source: southebys.com

Banksy doesn’t just stick to street art. In addition to his graffiti and remixed pieces of famous artworks in his “Crude Oils” collection, he has also published books. Banksy was the subject and director of an academy award-nominated documentary called “Exit through the gift shop,” which was an inside look at the consumerism of art through the life of French street artist Thierry Guetta. 

Banksy at a glance

  • Born: Unknown (around 1974)
  • Years active: 1990-Present
  • Nationality: British
  • Style and medium: Stencils, spray paint
  • Well-known worksLove is in the Air (Flower Thrower)Balloon Girl/Girl with Balloon, Kissing Coppers, Napalm, Slave Labour
  • Highest saleLove is in the Bin (2018) for £18.5 million ($25 million) in 2021.

Most famous Banksy street art

Banksy has made a lot of famous street art throughout the years, most of them classified as temporary art. A lot of his street art can be recognized around the world. Banksy’s pieces often feature rats, his signature thinker monkey, British politicians, or a young child.

One of his most recognized street art pieces includes the Girl with a Balloon. Showing a little girl who lost her red heart-shaped balloon, it’s an image that has become a mainstay of Banksy pieces and pays homage to youth and lost innocence.

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Screenprint of 'Girl with Balloon' sold for $120,000 at Sotheby's in 2020. 

Source: sothebys.com

Banksy’s street art often portrays children. One of his pieces created in North London during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 shows a child laborer working hard to produce union jack bunting for the event—a commentary on the use of sweatshops to quickly manufacture memorabilia.

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Banksy's 'Slave Labour' mural was sold to street artist Ron English in 2018 for $635,000 after originally being sold for $1.1 million in 2013. 

Source: theverge.com

Another Banksy artwork features an image from an iconic photograph of the napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. Next to the suffering little girl are Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse. It’s a harrowing image and a social statement on the consumerism imposed on children.

Banksy painted another famous graffiti artwork in 2020 of a young girl hula hooping with a bicycle tire. Next to the brick wall is a bicycle locked up and missing its back wheel. While most of Banksy's work created in 2020 was around the pandemic, the hula hoop girl was more hopeful and playful than his usual work.

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A print of Banksy's Napalm, which sold for $42,000 in 2022 at Sotheby's. 

Source: sothebys.com

While iconic works by Banksy can be found worldwide, a lot of them can be found in Banksy’s hometown, Bristol. One famous piece on Frogmore Street features a naked man hanging from a window. Another original mural by Banksy in Bristol depicts a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at policemen and is thought to be a reference to the Bristol riots of the 1980s. 

Another famous Banksy piece is Love is in the Air (Flower Thrower). First created in Jerusalem in 2003, it was painted on the city’s separation wall (between Israel and the occupied West Bank) and shows a young man in street clothes hurling a colorful bouquet of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail. Banksy has prolifically expressed his support for Palestinian rights through his artwork.

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Love is in the Air, spray paint on linen, sold for $3.9 million in 2022 at Sotheby's. 

Source: sothebys.com

In 2017, he created the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, which promises to give you the “worst view in the world.” Overlooking the West Bank separation wall, Banksy painted all the art in the hotel. There’s also a gift shop, museum, and exhibition space for Palestinian artists.

Some of Banksy’s most iconic works are also art installations. In 2015 Banksy created a theme park called Dismaland. Modeled after Disneyland, Banksy’s version was bleak and highlighted the shortcomings of the modern world, including the failure to address environmental issues and ongoing refugee crises.

Banksy asked numerous other peers to install their own art on the site, including Damien Hirst. In another event, Banksy organized a party even for graffiti artists from around the world to create street art at the Leake Street Tunnel in London.

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Banksy's Dismaland, September 2015. 

Source: dismaland.co.uk

Is Banksy artwork worth investing in?

The value of Banksy’s artwork has dramatically increased in recent years, with the average price of his work nearly reaching $1 million, according to research by Masterworks. Many of his work auctions at two to four times the purchase price or even more.

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Average prices of Banksy's work from 2010-2021. 

Source: masterworks

Riot Cop, which features a cop spray painted on a card, was purchased for $33,100 and sold for $510,000, making a 15.4x return on investment (ROI). Another work spray painted on canvas, Mosquito, sold for $139,000, nearly seven times its purchase price of $20,300. 

Meanwhile, Game Changer sold for $23.2 million 2021, surpassing an estimate of $3.5 to $4.8 million. It was the most expensive Banksy ever sold until Love in a bin surpassed that price by two million just a few months later.

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Banksy's Game changer sold for $23.2 million in 2021 at Christie's. 

Source: christies.com

While ten years ago you may have been able to get a Banksy for a few thousand, it’s nearly impossible to acquire a piece for less than a few tens of thousands of dollars today.

Vandalous Art

Vandalous Art

Would you invest in a Banksy?

How to invest in the best Banksy artworks

For those interested in owning a piece of the mysterious artist, there are a few ways to invest in a Banksy besides buying copies of his work from a New York street vendor (unless it’s actually Banksy himself).

You can find Banksy’s work at auction houses like Sotheby’s, Heritage Auctions, and Christie's. Or you can buy a building with his murals on them. However, Both options can be a bit expensive as most of his work sells for at least tens of thousands of dollars.

Another way to invest in iconic works by Banksy is to buy fractional shares of a piece through investing platforms like Masterworks and Public. Both platforms include original Banksys in their collection.

Masterworks is an investing platform specializing in securitized art. You can buy fractional shares of works by artists like Banksy, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. You can also sell your shares on Masterwork’s secondary market or wait until the platform sells the piece to make money if the value of the artwork goes up.

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With Public, you can also buy fractional shares of artworks like Banksy’s Police Car, as well as other collectibles like Birkin bags, rare and first-edition books, and even sports cards.

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