The ‘Holywell Row Happy Choppers’ 

Est £500,000 - £700,00

           The ‘Holywell Row Happy Choppers’


An original work of art by iconic street artist Banksy, which had been painted over by a nervous building owner, has been saved for generations to come.

‘Happy Choppers’ first appeared in 2002 at a construction site in London’s Whitecross Street Market. It has since been a recurring theme for Banksy, including his 2003 ‘Wrong War’ anti-Iraq war demonstration placards.

The first evidence of ‘Holywell Row Happy Choppers’ found online is from 2006 and was uploaded to the portfolio website Flickr by Russell G in August of that year. Photographs were also published on a blog entitled BANKSY PHOTO SAFARI with entries dated Spring 2006. The first published photograph features in the 2006 book BANKSY LOCATIONS AND TOURS by Martin Bull, page 15.  It has more ‘Apocalypse Now’ type Apache helicopters than any other piece by the artist.

The owner at the time of its painting considered it a security risk so, unbelievably, had it painted over a short while after; then sold the building without mention of its existence. Almost by chance, the new owner discovered the work while thumbing through Martin Bull’s book, a gift for his son.

The vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented ‘We were astounded to discover that our newly purchased office building was the canvas for an artwork of this significance, and what was more, it had been painted over by the previous owner! Banksy is a real icon of our time. His art is so important to preserve for future generations.’

Enter Chris Bull’s Fine Art Restoration Company team. This group of highly trained specialists had by that time already successfully restored multiple works by Banksy and had a faultless reputation. By adapting traditional conservation treatments - the kind practised in leading museums and galleries worldwide - the conservators have developed bespoke preservation techniques for the street art genre.

Mr. Bull said “one of the many difficulties we had was that the work had been sprayed on render and structurally could not be removed in one piece due to the likely risk of it breaking apart. The decision had to be taken for it to be removed in sections.”

The location of Happy Choppers had made it vulnerable to the pollutants and contamination of city air and pests. This surface contamination was professionally cleaned by Fine Art Restoration Company’s painting conservators, who have experience in the preservation of contemporary murals. They began by testing the sensitivity of the paint layer, as well as other aspects of the polluted surface and render, to create a bespoke cleaning solution. Their ethical, science-led methods ensures that the original pigment is never altered or destroyed. Essentially, they have approached the care of this mural in the same way a museum would approach the preservation of important ancient artefacts or Old Master paintings.

“The conservation of Happy Choppers took over a year to complete. Previous overpaint and localised graffiti was also removed without disturbing Banky’s original Happy Choppers stencil.” Mr. Bull continued, “As these murals do not use a medium traditionally found in art, our conservators investigated the chemistry of the original pigments and developed new techniques suitable for the safe treatment of aerosol art.”

The ‘Holywell Row Happy Choppers’ is documented in the seminal work BANKSY CAPTURED (Volume 1) by Steve Lazarides, page 94. Lazarides is well-known to have been a close friend and police spotter of Banksy and initially promoted his work. Lazarides was with Banksy when this mural was completed, and his photograph shows it fresh on the wall.

The Auction will take place on Wednesday 20th March and will be open to all for viewing and bidding.

Fred Wyrley-Birch, Director at Anderson and Garland Auctioneers said ‘we are expecting wide interest from around the world. We are hoping that institutions will be interested in this important piece so that enthusiasts of Banksy’s work can enjoy it for years to come. Previously works like this have been purchased by private individuals and gone into travelling exhibitions like ‘The Art of Banksy’ due to open in Soho on the 15th March.’

 Banksy Helicopters                              

Previously sold: The Merrivale Stable

Sold for £1,000,000 (inc fees)




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