Elusive artist Banksy sets record price

A spray paint on steel titled "Space girl and Bird" by artist Banksy is seen in this undated handout image released by Bonhams April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Bonhams/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - Cult artist Banksy set a new record on Wednesday when one of his works fetched 288,000 pounds ($576,000) at auction, around 20 times the estimate.

Bonhams auctioneers in London said the previous record of 102,000 pounds, set at Sotheby’s in February, was smashed earlier in the day when “Self Portrait” was sold for 198,000 pounds, around five times the pre-sale estimate.

But that record quickly tumbled later in the same sale when lot number 299, a spray paint work on steel commissioned by the pop band Blur called “Space Girl and Bird” went for 288,000 pounds to an anonymous U.S. buyer.

A third Banksy work, “Think Tank”, went for 75,000 pounds, Bonhams said. It had been expected to fetch 20-30,000 pounds.

All figures include buyer’s premium.

In contrast to the artist’s “underground” roots, spray-painting street walls and curbs, Banksy has become a darling of the international auction circuit, featuring alongside the likes of Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.

Much of the allure comes from Banksy’s ability to remain anonymous. “Self Portrait”, sold on Wednesday, features a human torso and arms and the paint-splattered head of a monkey.

The reclusive Banksy is also well know for stunts including decorating Israel’s controversial West Bank barrier and leaving a replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at the Disneyland theme park in the United States.

Gareth Williams, contemporary art specialist at Bonhams, said of Wednesday’s sale: “We are delighted with today’s result. The art market for contemporary cutting edge art is booming and Banksy’s work has become part of this culture.”