In May 2020, a black and white painting of a young boy sitting on the floor swooping a toy around, the action figure of a nurse in a superhero cape, appeared on the wall of Southampton General Hospital. The only spot of color is the archetypal red cross on her shirt. Nearby, in a waste basket, Batman and Spider-Man toys have been obviously cast aside for a greater hero.
Unlike most Banksy art, or most of what we think of as Bansky art, this painting, titled “Game Changer,” isn’t graffiti and it wasn’t a guerrilla effort. The framed painting was instead hung with the collaboration of managers of the hospital. But the secretive artist did leave a note.
“Thanks for all you’re doing,” the note that accompanied “Game Changer” read, addressed to all hospital workers. “I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only in black and white.”
Nearly a year later, being called a hero has taken a bitter taste in the mouth of most health workers. It was only ever lip service, as was proved whenever these heroes asked for more staff, for danger pay, or for more support. But the painting stayed up, and it did brighten people’s days. And hopefully now it can do more.
On Tuesday March 23rd, “Game Changer” sold at auction in Christie’s of London for 16.8 million pounds ($23.2 million), a record for Banksy’s art. According to the auction house, proceeds from the sale and “a significant portion” of Christie’s cut will be donated to fund health charities across the United Kingdom.
The sale, which was planned from the first donation of the painting, came on the one-year-anniversary of Britain’s first national lockdown. It also doesn’t leave the staff at Southampton empty-handed – a reproduction of the painting continues to hang in the same spot, complete with the original note.