A whimsical painting by elusive British artist Banksy sold for $615,000 at on online auction yesterday.
Housing Works, which provides support for homeless patients living with HIV/AIDS, said it received the painting around 11 a.m. Tuesday, when a woman walked into its thrift shop near Gramercy Park to drop off what was then an anonymous donation.
“She said the painting is worth a lot of money and that someone will contact us about it,” said Rebecca Edmondson, director of public relations at Housing Works.
The organization subsequently received a call from the artist’s team, authenticating the work and saying that Banksy would like the painting to be auctioned.
The foundation received a total of 138 bids, according to the Housing Works website.
Titled “The Banality of the Banality of Evil,” the work depicts a man in Nazi uniform contemplating a lake and snowy mountains from a wooden bench. The title echoes Hannah Arendt’s book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann.
The oil painting, minus the human figure, was purchased for $50 two months ago from the same shop. Banksy’s contribution: the Nazi and the signature. The work appears on Banksy’s website.
Housing Works, which operates 12 thrift shops in New York and sells many items in online auctions, placed the painting with Bidding for Good around 6 p.m. Tuesday. The opening bid was $74,000, Edmondson said, adding that bidding closed yesterday at 8 p.m. The painting will be displayed in the window of the Housing Works Gramercy thrift shop through the end of the auction.
For the past month, Banksy’s provocative images have been appearing on buildings in Bushwick and Coney Island, Brooklyn, and in the Bronx, as well as on the front pages of newspapers.
The artist has been announcing each project on his blog, “Better Out Than In,” which he described as “an artist residency on the streets of New York.”
“Most New Yorkers have been watching pretty closely what he’s been doing for the past 30 days,” Edmondson said. “There has been controversy. But it’s great to end on such a high note by giving back to the New York community.”