Whether it is creating iconic street murals or disrupting the art market, Banksy’s works are known by collectors and the public across the world. Banksy’s most famous art is, of course, a subjective notion. However, given our experience of dealing in Banksy for over 15 years and speaking to collectors every day, these most popular Banksy works always appear in our daily conversations.
Love is in the Bin/Girl with Balloon
Originally appearing circa 2002.
First appearing as a street art mural across London in around 2002 -the most famous example being on Waterloo Bridge - the motif of Girl with Balloon is Banky’s most popular image. Since appearing the image has appeared in commercial signed and unsigned prints, single and double canvases as well as on metal and cardboard. An eternal symbol of hope and innocence, the work is a poignant reminder of the fragility and power of the human spirit.
In the work we see a young girl, hand outstretched towards a red heart-shaped balloon that is moving away from her. Simple and powerful, it is instantly recognisable the world over. Indeed, Banksy has repurposed the image several times throughout his career to support his social campaigns including in 2005 on the West Bank Barrier, in 2014 about the Syrian Refugee crises and, in the same year, he produced a version about the UK election.
In 2017, Girl with Balloon was ranked as the UK’s favourite artwork in a poll conducted by The Frame National Art Audit which tasked 2,000 British adults with voting for their favourite visual artworks from a shortlist drawn up by a panel of dedicated arts editors and writers. In the poll, 44% of respondents said that Girl with Balloon was their favourite artwork beating the likes of John Constable’s The Hay Wain and Jack Vettriano’s The Singing Butler.
“And what artwork better captures the spirit of our times than Love is in the Bin? I can't think of one.” Will Gompertz
Arguably, the most well-known iteration of Girl with Balloon is the version that famously shredded at Sotheby’s London on the 5th of October 2018. Described by Sotheby’s as "the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction” the artwork would later appear at auction under the name “Love is in the Bin” and set the current record for the most expensive Banksy painting selling for circa £18.5m GBP just three years later in 2021.
Banksy has several times used variants of this design to support social campaigns: in 2005 about the West Bank barrier, in 2014 about the Syrian refugee crisis, and also about the 2017 UK election. A 2017 Samsung poll ranked Girl with Balloon as the United Kingdom's number one favourite artwork.
Explore the meaning of Banksy’s Girl with Balloon.
Love is in the Air, 2003
Love Is In The Air is undoubtedly one of Banksy’s most iconic and most sought-after works of art. First appearing in 2003, Love is in the Air or Flower Thrower as it is also known, was a large, stenciled piece of graffiti that appeared following the building of the West Bank Wall which stretches some 750km and separates Palestine from Israel.
In the artist’s own words, the wall “essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison”. Returning to the disputed region in 2005, the artist produced a further nine works in support of the freeing of Palestine against oppression and imperialism. Fast forward 10 years, 2015 witnessed the artist produce a further four works amongst the bombed out ruins of the Gaza strip and opened the Walled of Hotel in Bethlehem that proudly boasts ‘worst view in the world’.
Whilst being associated with the Israel Palestine conflict the image itself is universal. Visually, the piece is characteristic of the artist’s street stencil graffiti style and, in typical Banksy aplomb, features a contrasting image that can be interpreted as playful as well as more serious. Central to the image the figure, silhouetted in black and dressed as a militant, wears a baseball cap and bandana to disguise their identity in a pose commonly associated with the throwing of a petrol bomb. However, the “Banksy twist” reverses this notion as the figure throws a bouquet of flowers.
A series of prints of the work were produced in 2005 numbering 150 signed and 500 unsigned. Recent auction records have shown the insatiable demand for LIITA with the signed record of 540,000 GBP being set at Christie's in December 2020 and the unsigned record being set at Sotheby’s in March 2021 at 230.000 GBP.
As with many of the artist’s works the image has also been repurposed and given a new context in the rare CCCP Flower Thrower. Believed to be from an edition of approximately only 10, this rare work seldom appears on the open market or at auction, the iconic flower thrower - in this instance - is clad in black against the red Soviet lettering: CCCP.
The image makes one think of riots, repression and rebellion. Violent intent is an undercurrent of the work that the subject seems to try and escape through his throwing of flowers instead of weapons. Peace it seems is the way conflict should be settled not through violence or destruction. The bunch of flowers recalls innocence, of gifting and of settling arguments creating a message that is clear; peace not war and perhaps in its conjuring up of 60s riots is a nod towards the flower power movement of the epoque.
Explore the meaning of Love is in the Air.
Central Park Pop-up as part of Better Out Than In, 2013
What makes Banksy's art so famous is the settings and ways he delivers his work to the public. Pop-ups such as Santa’s Ghetto, exhibitions such as Barely Legal in LA which featured a painted elephant and his Guantanamo Bay detainee at Disneyland. It goes without saying that Banksy is a master self-publicist and his ability to delight, shock and entice the public is as much down to the quality of his art as it is his ability to get attention. One such famous example of Banksy’s ability to subvert the artworld through his stunts is the 2003 Central Park pop up.
Part of the artist’s Better Out Than In residency which saw Banksy create 30 pieces of art across 30 days in New York City, Banksy set up a stall in Central Park selling his original paintings for a mere $60.00 USD. "Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each." he announced the next day on Instagram. What made this exciting and provocative stunt just so endearing was that it called into question the value of art for either its monetary or aesthetic value.
Having not announced this beforehand, tourists and park goers were unaware of the value of the paintings. Banksy later posted a video on his website chronicling the surprise sale, which revealed that a total of seven paintings were sold for $420 taking. A woman from New Zealand who bought two for $60 each later sold them for £125,000 at a London auction in 2014. Since this sale, the value of the works Kids on Guns and Winnie the Pooh have skyrocketed. To avoid his fans and the public being sold fakes, the artist later announced "Please note: this was a one off. The stall will not be there again today." Perhaps he was anticipating an entrepreneur stepping in to fill the sudden demand for art in the park.”
Napalm, from a signed edition of 150 and an unsigned edition of 500 carries such weight and poignancy that typifies the artist. If one had to choose a work that captures Banksy then Napalm would be a wise choice - humour, poignancy and cutting, barbed wit. A scintillating attack on commercialism and, specifically, American consumer culture, the work uses the famous and brutal image of Vietnamese girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc (taken by AP photographer Nick Ut) showing her injured and fleeing from a napalm attack. Holding her hand are two powerful symbols of consumerism - Mickey Mouse and Ronald Macdonald. Transforming these two characters, the work takes on a deeply sinister and disturbing tone as childhood and innocence are deeply subverted to create such intense juxtaposition. As collectors ourselves, we look for works that generate emotions and Napalm is such a work that touches and repulses all at once.
On the work, Director Acoris Andipa says, " In early 2006 I came across another work by Banksy entitled Napalm, which shook me to look into this artist and want to become involved. The work depicts Ronald Macdonald and Mickey Mouse replacing two men holding a girl burnt by Napalm in the Vietnam War. The famous photograph taken by Nick Ut, a photojournalist working during the war. Banksy had captured something that at first made you chuckle until you recall the origin along with the pain within this famous image confronting emotions of innocence, war and children. The twenty-first century confronting war, capitalism and liberty." Explore the meaning of Napalm.
Mild Mild West, 1999
An early street art mural, Mild Mild West is a hand-sprayed mural in Bristol which, unlike many of Banksy’s other street works, can still be viewed. Banksy created the artwork across three days in broad daylight in 1998. ACcording to reports, the work was created as a response to the police’s response to various unlicensed raves and parties held in abandoned warehouses around Bristol in the 1990s. One of the major influences in the famous Banksy work was said to be an event that took place in Winterstoke Road, New Years Eve 97/98 where riot police began to attack ravers. The work, now over 23 years old, is a central part of Bristol culture and shows the importance of protest, is anti-establishment and shows a disdain and distrust for authority - all themes that Banksy has returned to in various guises across his career.
The work has been placed under acrylic perspex by Bristol City Council in order to preserve local culture following, in April 2009, the mural being canalised by an anti-graffiti organisation called Appropriate Media,
Ukraine works, 2022
Considered to be some of Banksy’s most famous and powerful recent works, Banksy in, 2022, took to Ukraine where he created a series of installations and murals to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Set to this theatre of war, Banksy has once again produced a body of work that is poignant, thoughtful and authentic.
Numbering one confirmed work (four remain pending verification), the artworks appeared across a number of locations in the war ravaged country - a reminder of the beauty to be found in the spirit of human creation set to such a brutal backdrop. Delicately executed, thematically the series tells of loss, of pain and of suffering. Gone is the hope that was once found in works such as Girl with Balloon and back is the anger and of Love is in the Air and more barbed pieces.
The human spirit seemingly endures through the verified work of a slight acrobat cast in black and white paint on the canvas of a ruined building. Accompanied by the caption “Borodyanka, Ukraine” the figure balances on the rubble of a damaged building - a poignant reminder of the illusion of safety and the essence of fragility that society and civilisation carry.
Borodianka, a town north-west of Kyiv, was pummelled by Russian bombs at the beginning of the invasion. Over the course of the war, Ukraine has gallantly fought back taking key areas from Russian forces.
A mural depicting a man resembling the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, being thrown to the floor during a judo match with a young boy has appeared amongst other works. The second, a dancer in leotard with neck brace and free flowing flag hovering over a bombed out space. Another showed two children using a metal tank trap as a seesaw and the most recent one shows a Babushka in a gas mask holding a fire extinguisher.
These works cement Banksy as one of the most important artists who succinctly and powerful captures fine emotion. Bringing further attention to the tragedy, the artist shows the indomitable human spirit, of creativity and of solidarity. Values that are all too often forgotten in such dark times.
The ghostly figures inhabit streets where life seemed to flow so freely. Performers in the theatre of war with no audience. With no applause. With no flowers to be thrown at their feet. Yet perform they do. Maybe not to the residents of these now chaotic avenues but to a global stage who wills them to succeed.
Banksy’s most famous artworks perfectly the capture an artist at their height/ Profoundly deep, profoundly interesting and profoundly popular - Banksy’s works resonate across the globe. For more information on our available Banksy original paintings and Banksy prints, contact email@example.com or call +44 (0)20 7589 2371.