Sunflowers from Petrol Station
Signed and dated ‘BANKSY OCTOBER 2005’ on the stretcher
Banksy, Wall and Piece, London, 2005, p.132 (illustrated)
Date: 9 November 2021
Price Realized: USD 14,558,000
‘If you want to survive as a graffiti writer when you go indoors your only option is to carry on painting over things that don’t belong to you there either.’
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Photo: Art Resource, New York.
‘The vandalized paintings reflect life as it is now. We don’t live in a world like Constable’s Hay Wain anymore … The real damage done to our environment is not done by graffiti writers and drunken teenagers, but by big business… exactly the people who put gold-framed pictures of landscapes on their walls and try to tell the rest of us how to behave.’
Crude Oils marked the first time that Banksy had truly asserted himself as a painter. Up until then, his infamy was rooted in stenciled graffiti creations that appeared across the world: from the beloved Girl with Balloon, who migrated from London’s Shoreditch to the Southbank in 2004, to the poignant “Flower Thrower”, who hurled tokens of peace towards the West Bank Barrier wall and was joined by a series of other murals at the site shortly before the present work. In line with these interventions, Banksy also initiated a sustained attack on museums worldwide, beginning with a prank at London’s Tate Britain in 2003 in which he secretly hung one of his works among the permanent collection display.
The following year, a version of the Mona Lisa—her face replaced with an acid yellow smiley—appeared at the Louvre in Paris. Back in London, fake artefacts sprung up at both the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, while a series of four stunts in New York included the appearance of a tongue-in-cheek Warhol parody at the Museum of Modern Art in 2005. The work, which replaced Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can with a “Tesco Value” alternative—referencing the budget range of the eponymous British supermarket chain—hung undetected for six days.
These activities laid the groundwork for Crude Oils, poking fun at society’s blind faith in institutionally-sanctioned art. Ironically, the exhibition itself was Banksy’s first in a more traditional setting, following on from his 2003 show Turf War held in an East London warehouse. In the storefront of 100 Westbourne Grove—a disused shop in Notting Hill—the artist created a miniature gallery that lasted for 12 days. The present work took its place among a select number of fully hand-painted “remixes,” all of which confronted similar themes of cultural and environmental destruction. Monet’s serene lily pond became a dumping ground, filled with traffic cones and trolleys; Hopper’s quiet late-night bar had been smashed by a topless delinquent, while Vettriano’s romantic beach scene was interrupted by a sinking oil liner and two men wheeling a barrel of toxic waste. Opposite, Banksy hung a number of pre-existing canvases which he had salvaged from flea markets and doctored, inserting police tape into idyllic country landscapes and iPod headphones into the Virgin Mary’s ears. Elsewhere, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe became Kate Moss, taking her place on the exhibition’s flyer; a number of defamed sculptures were also included. In a final act of subversion, 200 live rats—an established motif within Banksy’s practice—swarmed throughout the space, as if having reclaimed it in the wake of the world’s end.
‘Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience … The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say.’
Marcel Duchamp, L. H.O.O.Q., 1919
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
© Association Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2021
Screen-print in colors on wove paper
56×76 cm (22×30 inches)