Christie’s Hong-Kong: 24 May 2021
HKD 47,050,000 / USD 6,060,000
Barely Legal, Los Angeles, 2006
Created in 2006, Sale Ends Today plays out Banksy’s irreverent humor on epic scale. Across a vast white canvas more than four meters wide, he uses his trademark stencil technique to depict four kneeling women, who variously pray, collapse or throw up their hands in attitudes of lament. Wearing voluminous robes and veils, they would be at home as mourners in an Old Masterly portrayal of the deposition of Christ. Rather than the messiah, however, the object of the women’s distress is a more secular icon: a large red sign with white block capitals reading ‘SALE ENDS TODAY.’ With this wry parody of art history’s most storied subject matter, Banksy makes a biting comment on contemporary consumerism, which, he implies, rivals the zeal of religious devotion.
Banksy’s incorporation of the ‘sale’ sign transposes to canvas the spirit of his public artworks, which often dialogue or intervene with existing features of the urban environment as a mode of cultural critique. In this sense, the work bears comparison with the Pop art of Andy Warhol, whose depictions of soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles and other American icons—themselves informed by the Catholic imagery of Warhol’s upbringing—likewise recognized that modern society worshipped a new form of idol. Banksy’s striking juxtaposition of the worshipful women and banal text also recalls aspects of the text-based Pop practice of artists such as Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger, who destabilize the language of advertising and mass-media by clashing it with sublime imagery or provocatively altering its words. Sale Ends Today is a similarly challenging statement, charged with the quick-thinking visual wit that Banksy honed on the streets of Bristol.