To benefit the NHS, the black and white artwork is estimated at £2,500,000-3,500,000
March 10, 2021: On May 6, 2020, during the first wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic, a painting by Banksy was mysteriously sent to Southampton General Hospital in UK. ‘Game Changer’ was accompanied by a note: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.” The street artist donated the artwork to the hospital as a thank-you to the staff. Now Banksy is auctioning the original canvas to raise funds to benefit NHS (National Healthcare Service) charities, while a reproduction of the work remains in Southampton Hospital.
The iconic artwork, reflective of our current times, will be offered at Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale on March 23, with a pre-sale estimate of £2,500,000-3,500,000.
Appearing at a time when countries across the world applauded their frontline workers from their doorsteps during the first global lockdown, and painted rainbows in support, Game Changer spoke directly to the international zeitgeist. Until now, the work has only been seen in person by frontline medical staff and those admitted to hospital for treatment: the auction marks Game Changer's first appearance outside of the hospital.
The hand-painted Game Changer shows a young boy playing with a selection of superhero dolls. In the painting, Batman and Spiderman lie discarded in a bin; instead, the child clutches a new idol. A masked nurse dressed in the international uniform of the Red Cross soars to the rescue, her cape fluttering and arm outstretched towards the sky.
Katharine Arnold, Co-Head, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Europe: “Game Changer is a universal tribute to all those fighting worldwide on the frontline 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. Banksy’s Game Changer was a beacon of light for the staff and patients at Southampton General Hospital and it was the artist’s wish to then auction it with proceeds benefitting the NHS. The work pays tribute to the strength and resilience of those who have demonstrated true leadership throughout the pandemic, the staff of our vital NHS, the nation’s true heroes. At the same time, our young protagonist engaged in the simple pleasure of playing with his action figures, captures the other side of this pandemic, the focus on family, friends and loved ones.”
An image of quiet poignancy, the composition is monochrome, save for the red cross that glows from the nurse’s uniform. It captures a moment of unstudied innocence, as the boy appears to look towards a brighter dawn, safe in the knowledge that real superheroes do walk among us. As an artwork, 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.