A Banksy artwork produced in the early days of the elusive British street artist's career could fetch more than $1 million at auction later this month.
If it does, it would make the Banksy piece, Keep It Real, the most expensive work of art by a living, contemporary artist in New Zealand history, according to the International Art Centre.
The 2003 signed artwork depicts a chimpanzee wearing a sandwich board inscribed with "Keep it real". It will go under the hammer on March 30 at the International Art Centre in Parnell, Auckland.
The centre's director Richard Thomson said the piece is expected to sell for between $600,000 and $1m.
"Banksy is a modern-day art sensation. There is no one quite like him," Thomson said.
Banksy is yet to be publicly identified.
"He's an activist who is deeply concerned about social injustice and inequities and his works carry very powerful and controversial, but often subtle messages."
Banksy was a friend of British graffiti artist King Robbo, although the friendship was known for a long-running and public dispute between the pair.
Banksy was thought to have created Keep It Real about the time the pair patched up their differences and became friends, Thomson said.
The sale will also feature two other Banksy works, Choose your Weapon and Morons.
Choose your Weapon depicts a hooded man holding a dog and is believed to portray disaffected British youth and gang culture, where aggressive dogs are seen as weaponry.
It's also believed the harmless nature of the stylised dog puts a spin on this message with Banksy asking people to "choose our weapon" and turn stigma and prejudice, into kindness and peace, he said.
More Banksy works could be added to the March 30 sale, Thomson said.
Morons is also a controversial Banksy work, based on the historic sale of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers for more than $50m at Christie's in London in 1987, the highest price ever paid for a work of art, he said.
Banksy's Morons depicts a scene of auction for a large canvas bearing the words in capitals, 'I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MORONS ACTUALLY BUY THIS S**T'.
The auction will also include works from Colin McCahon, Robyn Kahukiwa, Toss Woollaston, Pat Hanly, Philip Clairmont, Bill Hammond, Gretchen Albrecht and a 1968 work by Milan Mrkusich that was last exhibited in 1972.
The International Art Centre sold close to $1m in Banksy prints at an auction in November, with Thomson calling it "one of the greatest auctions ever held in New Zealand".
Among the pieces that sold was Banksy's Love is in the Air. It was projected to go for $150,000-$250,000 but sold for $309,000 to a New Zealand buyer.