Banksy graffiti art SWAT Van 2006. Household gloss and spray paint on a van, 295 by 700 by 250 cm. Image: Bonhams Auctions
SWAT Van spray painted with heavily armed agents, graffiti and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz by Banksy estimated at £200,000-300,000
LONDON- On June 29, art collectors will get the opportunity to buy an unusual artwork by Banksy, the world’s most famous street artist. Titled SWAT Van, the spray-painted painting by the street artist will be auctioned during the Bonhams Post-War and Contemporary art sale. It is estimated at £200,000-300,000.
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SWAT Van which has been shrouded in mystery for more than ten years has been authenticated by the Pest Control Office, Banksy’s authorization service. The painting was first shown in Barely Legal, Banksy’s debut solo show in the United States. Exhibited in an industrial warehouse in downtown Los Angeles in 2006, the show which opened with little pomp or fanfare soon became a must see. As word of the impressive exhibition spread, the crowd thronged the venue. Long queues snaked around the block. The appearance of celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Dennis Hopper on the show’s opening day gave it even greater credence.
The Elephant Banksy, and Graffiti
An Indian elephant, painted red and gold, lumbering around the gallery, was one of the major attractions at the wacky and eccentric show. Guests were under strict instructions not to discuss the ‘elephant in the room’.
Captivating as the elephant was, the object that stole the show was SWAT Van. Spray painted in Banksy’s irreverent, insouciant style, the painting combines vicious black humor with his anti-establishment message. The painting depicts heavily armed Special Forces agents being hoodwinked by a small boy. Sneaking behind the heavily armed Special Forces agents is a boy dressed in a white shirt and black pant. In his hand is a brown bag. There is mischief written all over him as he prepares to spook the Special Forces agents in a tactical formation. On the other side of the van is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz caught in a storm of graffiti. On the back of the van is a question and a call to action. It reads: How’s My Bombing? Call 1800-648-0403.
The uniqueness of the exhibition and the controversial nature of SWAT Van reverberated beyond LA. In the Land of Beautiful People, an Artist Without a Face was the New York Times headline following the exhibition. From 2006, Banksy has grown to become one of the most celebrated urban artists. Even as he continues to practice as a graffiti artist, his works are attracting six figures at auction.
SWAT Van is a window into Banksy’s artistic career. His career has been plagued by confrontations with police. During his residency in New York, he was chased around the city by police, who were determined in stopping him from ” defacing” the city. Of course, there is no love lost between Banksy and the police. He does not hide his displeasure with the police. Banksy once said “My main problem with cops is that they do what they’re told,” he said. “They say ‘Sorry mate, I’m just doing my job’ all the f***king time.”
Ralph Taylor, Senior Director of Bonhams Post-War and Contemporary Art department, notes that SWAT Van is not just the most ambitious project by the graffiti artist, but also probably the most significant piece by the artist to ever come to auction.
He said of the SWAT Van: ‘All of Banksy is on show here: his bravado, his imagination, his technical prowess, his confidence and his willingness to put his head above the parapet and use truth as a weapon.’