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This 17-ton Volvo truck is actually a million-dollar piece of art

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Bonhams.

If there’s any better indicator that we’ve reached peak Banksy, no less than three well-respected and long-established auction houses will go head-to-head-to-head with competing sales of the street artist’s works. Most of those works come with price tags in the tens of thousands of dollars, but the muralized 1988 Volvo FL6 17-ton truck that Bonhams will offer — reportedly Banksy’s largest — is expected to sell in the millions of dollars.

According to Bonhams, the anonymous artist known as Banksy was either commissioned or persuaded to tag the truck in 1999 at a party in Spain by one of the co-founders of the Turbozone International Circus, a traveling theater company that made extensive use of pyrotechnics and acrobatics in its productions. The underlying Volvo remained untouched, but the box truck’s cab and body served as a canvas for the artist both during the party and for the two weeks afterward.

On one side, a man surrounded by red stars smashes a television against a backdrop of flying monkeys while, on the other side, a cannon mounted atop a bull chases after a group of soldiers. “The over-riding message is one of anarchy: ‘It’s us against them and we’re going to win,'” as Bonhams describes the work. “The cumulative result is a resounding statement, both a direct call to arms against the establishment and the transformation of a mundane service vehicle into extraordinary work of art.”

Then again, Banksy has consistently delivered anti-authoritarian, pro-working class messages in his work, and this early work of his (his first gallery shows didn’t take place until several years later) confirms that those themes are foundational to his artwork. Indeed, at least one later piece reflects the title he gave to the truck: Turbo Zone Truck (Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be in Charge).

After Banksy finished the truck, it went on to tour Europe and South America with Turbozone in support of its production of Cinderella. According to Bonhams, it has remained in Turbozone’s possession ever since.

Banksy did make use of another box van later in his career. That truck, a 23-foot-long GMC P-series step van, debuted at the artist’s 2006 Barely Legal exhibition and depicted Dorothy from Wizard of Oz on one side and a boy sneaking up on a SWAT team on the other. It sold at auction in 2016 for sold for £218,500 ($293,539) against a pre-auction estimate of £200,000 to £300,000.

The Volvo truck (chassis number YB1E6A4AOJB422208) will cross the auction block just a few days prior to Bonhams’s own sale of multiple Banksy prints in a separate auction. At roughly the same time, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s will offer dozens of other Banksy prints in their own online auctions. Banksy recently made headlines at a Sotheby’s auction in London when a framed piece of his self-shredded shortly after the winning bid for it was placed.

According to Bonhams, the Volvo is expected to sell for £1,000,000 to £1,500,000, or about USD 1.2 million to USD 1.8 million, when it crosses the block at the Goodwood Revival. The Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale will take place September 14. For more information, visit Bonhams.com.