As the Puget Sound region faced extreme heat from climate change this week, one of the art world’s most daring comments on the issue resurfaced across the Atlantic.
A 2009 creative vandalism work by British artist and agitator Banksy, “Subject to Availability,” was due to go on sale Wednesday at Christie’s King Street in London. The subject of the painting is a beloved feature of the Northwest: Mount Rainier.
A prolific street artist, Banksy has long maintained his anonymity despite growing fame and multi-million dollar private sales. Christie’s estimates the value of “Subject to Availability” between £ 3,000,000 and £ 5,000,000, or approximately $ 4,152,900 and $ 6,921,500 in US dollars.
To create “subject to availability,” Banksy “hijacked” an 1890 painting by artist Albert Bierstadt, Christie spokesperson Sara Macdonald said. Although Bierstadt, a German-American painter, lived in New York City, he frequently visited – and painted – the American West during his lifetime.
Bierstadt was an appropriate conceptual reference for Banksy’s calculation with climate change. As Macdonald explained, he was a member of the Hudson River School, a group of painters who “stood up against the destruction of nature by the industrial revolution.”
Banksy leaned on this comment by adding an asterisk and a tiny bit of corporate speech in the lower right corner of the table: “* Subject to availability for a limited time only”.
If that phrase resonates now that many are grappling with the impact of climate change on the West, that’s exactly what we want to remember.
By design, Banksy created “Subject to Availability” the year of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He has often looked at the plight of the environment through an activist lens – not surprisingly for an artist whose work has covered all manner of social issues.
Christie’s catalog text lists just a few: “Police brutality, knife crime, poverty, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Brexit, migration and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic “.
After the Copenhagen conference ended in 2009 without a legally binding treaty to mitigate climate change, Banksy painted the phrase “I DON’T BELIEVE IN CLIMATE WARMING” on a wall adjacent to the Regent’s Canal in London, the letters appearing to flow into it. water as if a lot of coastline.
In 2018, the artist produced a mural of a boy inhaling ashes in Port Talbot, the Welsh town where one of Europe’s largest steel factories is located.
What differentiates a piece as “Subject to Availability” from these street art works is its reference to artistic traditions of the past which, unlike the driving forces of climate change, worshiped nature.
“In this book Banksy’s deliberate nod to the Romantic Era – a period that glorified the sublime majesty of nature – serves to underscore the tragic reality latent in his asterisk joke,” the text reads. of the catalog. The large original image, “imbued with romantic heroism and grandeur, is reduced to ephemeral merchandise”.
Degrading the work of other artists – or at least reimagining them – is a common approach for Banksy.
“Subject to availability” “belongs to the famous Banksy series of vandalism [oil paintings] and was originally included in Banksy’s flagship exhibition in Bristol – a guerrilla strike on its own ground, ”said Macdonald of Christie’s.
For this exhibition, “Banksy versus Bristol Museum”, the artist added overnight more than 100 of his works to the museum’s permanent collection.