New NZ record: Original Banksy sells for nearly $1.5m at Auckland auction

New NZ record: Original Banksy sells for nearly $1.5m at Auckland auction
Photo credit: Newshub.

An original signed canvas by elusive street artist Banksy has fetched nearly $1.5 million at an auction in Auckland.

Depicting a chimpanzee wearing a sandwich board, "Keep it Real" was one of six works by the anonymous British artist to be sold at Parnell's International Art Centre.

The auction house estimated it would sell for between $600,000 and $1 million, but a fierce bidding war saw it go for $1,455,000, plus a buyers' premium of 20 percent on Tuesday night.

The sale sets a new record for an artwork sold at auction in New Zealand.

"This is a career highlight for me, the gallery, and the New Zealand art market," International Art Centre director and auctioneer Richard Thomson told the packed room on Tuesday.

"Honestly, I couldn't have scripted it this way."

Thomson says the spray-painted piece is the first Banksy original to be sold in New Zealand.

"Most of his works, particularly his original works, are sold in the big auction houses in London and New York."

Thomson estimates the 30x30 centimetre canvas is one of six original versions of "Keep It Real" the artist produced.

"This particular one is the only square version we know of, there's some rectangular versions but this is the only domestic size we're aware of."

World-renowned for his street art, Banksy's works have become sought after at auctions.

"He's the godfather of 21st century art. You had Andy Warhol in the 20th and Van Gogh in the 19th. Banksy is absolutely up there, he's global," says Thomson.

In fact, Thomson compares him to an even bigger name.

"He's very much the modern-day Michelangelo. He's witty, some people think he's incredibly intelligent, and what he produces is phenomenal really. He's ahead of his time and he's an absolute mystery."

Despite the record New Zealand sale, the sum pales in comparison to a Banksy piece sold in the UK last week, which raised $30m for a NHS charity.