Banksy (British, b. 1975) Oh My God 2006

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Lot 11* AR
(British, b. 1975)
Oh My God

Sold for £ 855,062 (US$ 1,200,284) inc. premium
Banksy (British, b. 1975)
Oh My God

tagged; signed and dated 21 July 2006 on the reverse
spray paint and emulsion on found metal

129.5 by 91.5 cm.
51 by 36 in.

This work is unique.


  • This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control Office.

    Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired directly from the Barely Legal exhibition)
    Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2011

    Los Angeles, Barely Legal, 2006

    Literature and Film
    Banksy, Wall and Piece - Now with 10% More Crap, London 2006, p. 240 illustrated in colour
    Elio Espana, Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art, 2020, 1:32:05 (installation view)

    One of the definitive artists of the new millennium, Banksy has left an indelible mark on the walls of art history as a true maverick of the genre. From his emergence as a figurehead of street art, Banksy has risen to the heights of global superstardom through a course of breakthrough exhibitions, political activism, and artistic showmanship. Presented here for sale, Oh My God was first displayed at Banksy's most significant exhibition, Barely Legal, his debut show in the United States in Los Angeles in 2006. Irreverent, playful, and littered with art historical and cultural allusions, Oh My God is a work in Banksy's quintessential stenciling style on a rare metal support, demonstrating all the panache and appeal that places this amongst his most collectible works.

    Painted on a found piece of metal, the present work reflects the gritty, urban environment that Banksy was borne of – a painting true to his roots as a street artist and anti-establishment renegade. In a typical revisionist twist on the classical portrait, the iconography of the image feels remarkably familiar, whose sitter's tilted glance conjures the timeless pose of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earing (1665) or Pablo Picasso's compelling portraits of Dora Maar produced at the end of the 1930s. Such comparisons have long since become entirely apt for the anonymous British artist, whose career has defined the cultural landscape of the last two decades, and become synonymous with contemporary art criticism and political discourse in the twenty-first century.

    Known for his sardonic wit and pointed irony, Banksy has never shied away from a searing commentary of the art world that has embraced him. In the present work this is brought to the fore with a piquant and wry humour. Feigning interest or enthusiasm for the role of the artist, Banksy's depiction of his subject pokes fun at the superficiality of the cultural dilettante and part-time art lover; it is a picture of the artists perspective of the patent triviality of the "in" crowd who laud him. Like all great artists, Banksy's aloofness and ardent refusal to heed his now-celebrity status has only cemented his legacy as a true outlier and hero to the public who view him in the vein of Robin Hood, undermining and ridiculing the established order of contemporary art. He is also the embodiment of that peculiarly British, self-effacing sense of humour whereby he mocks the faux seriousness of artists, their overweening narcissism and therefore his own. Here is the essence of his work: he is polemic, scathing and satiric and everyone is a possible target, including himself.

    It was in keeping with his raison d'être that Banky organised Barely Legal; an exhibition that drew celebrity and global press attention, culminating in the watershed moment of the artist's career. Already amassing a cult following through his self-initiated solo exhibitions in London in the early 2000s, it was a break-out event attended by leading collectors, and dealers, whose guest list teemed with Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jude Law, and Cameron Diaz. Such hype, however, did not stymie the artist's unshakeable faith in his work to speak truth to power, producing a complete exhibition of works that called out the twisted realities of consumer culture. In Banksy's own words, "as soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They've been used to start revolutions and to stop wars" (the artist in 'The Story Behind Banksy,' Will Ellsworth-Jones, The Smithsonian, February 2013, online).

    His taste for theater, black humour and activism have distinguished him from his street art kin such as Blek Le Rat and Shepard Fairey, and placed Banksy in a category of his own. Undoubtedly, his anonymity and resilience as a political entity in his own right – who single-handedly became a symbol of hope stenciling graffiti in the Gaza Strip in 2015, and more recently launched an independent search-and-rescue vessel for asylum seekers adrift in the Mediterranean – has meant Banksy's legacy is unrivalled in its depth and scope not only in graffiti circles, but in the art world at large. At his core, he remains one of the greatest artists of our time, and the present work is a veritable embodiment of the adroit hand, cunning mind and values that have made him so celebrated and his works so highly sought-after.

    As Banksy's profile and collectability has developed, unique works of exceptional history and quality become still more prized. Presented here for sale is such a painting that demonstrates the British artist's indisputable and enduring currency as social commentator and contemporary artist. His technique remains singular and immediately identifiable, and Oh My God is amongst those most rare of Banksy works whose subject appears completely unique. Exhibited first at Barely Legal, the exhibition that would redefine Banksy as one of the most admired artists of the period, Oh My God is central to the mythology that accompanies his work and the cult following he has garnered, and its sale represents an opportunity to acquire one of the finest examples from the crucible of Banksy's career to date.
Banksy (British, b. 1975) Oh My God 2006
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