An oil painting Banksy defaced to draw attention to the climate crisis is headed to auction, and it's predicted to fetch between $4.14 and $6.9 million.
In Subject to Availability Banksy hijacks German-American painter, Albert Bierstadt's 1890 oil painting of Mount Rainier National Park in Seattle, adding an asterisk at the snowy peak of the summit and a caveat that reads “Subject to availability for a limited period only.”
The “limited period only” refers to the fact that Mount Rainier’s glaciers are melting at six times the historic rate. Researchers are flocking to Mount Rainier to study the effects of climate change that they predict will destroy habitat for plant and animal species up and down the mountain.
“Banksy’s witty dialogue with the art historical canon brings the painting sharply into the current context of the global climate crisis,” Katharine Arnold, co-head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, told Artnet News. “Ten years on from its creation [...] the idyllic park it depicts has already been closed to the public since February 2020 due to severe flooding and landslides.”
The painting was previously featured in Banksy versus Bristol Museum which also included his defaced version of Rembrandt’s 1669 Self-Portrait at the Age of 63 (National Gallery, London), as well as the monumental Devolved Parliament (2009). The street artist has a well-documented penchant for remixing the greats, and he's found an avid audience. Last year, for example, his parody of Claude Monet’s impressionist water lilies painting has sold at auction for more than £7.5m ($9.8 million) – the second-highest price ever paid for a work by the British street artist.
With Show Me The Monet, Banksy added a discarded shopping cart and a fluorescent orange traffic cone to shine a light on society’s disregard for the environment in favor of the wasteful excesses of consumerism. In Subject to Availability the artist once again holds a mirror to society’s self-destructive tendencies — now with an added sense of urgency.
Subject to Availability appears as part of the Off the Wall: Basquiat to Banksy exhibition, showcasing the contemporary explosion of street art and graffiti, spanning post-punk New York, millennial Britain, and beyond. Around 50 works by artists including Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Os Gemeos, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf will be displayed at Christie’s Headquarters in London until 7 May 2021, with an accompanying online component running concurrently.