The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Banksy
From Napalm to Love is in the Air, Banksy has always been surprising us...
Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based street artist, political activist, and film director whose real name and identity remain unconfirmed and the subject of speculation. Active since the 1990s, his satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique.
His works of political and social commentary have appeared on streets, walls, and bridges throughout the world. Banksy’s work grew out of the Bristol underground scene, which involved collaborations between artists and musicians. Banksy says that he was inspired by 3D, a graffiti artist and founding member of the musical group Massive Attack.
niood lists the 10 Most Famous Artworks of Banksy:
The Banksy print, Napalm is sourced from a recognizable and famous Vietnam War photograph taken on June 8th, 1972 by AP photographer, Nick Ut – the photograph would later win a Pulitzer Prize. The focal point of the original photograph seen below shows a young girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc (then age 9), fleeing the town of Trang Bang after a air to surface bombing raid by U.S. soldiers.
Banksy unapologetically investigates the relationship between perception and reality in the Napalm print. Seen bookending both sides of the girl are icons of American Culture and Capitalism skipping with the screaming young girl. Considered by many to be one of Banksy’s most haunting and hard images, he draws interest towards how America perceives itself, and how it is perceived by other cultures. Are the figures guiding Kim Phuc to safety or are they skipping her towards an untimely end?
One could also interpret this Banksy print as exploring the damaging effects of expansion and occupation. See by many in the U.S. as a pimple on the face of the local landscape, McDonald’s establishments are viewed as an ever-imposing offense to the eyes. The expansion of this restaurant chain is prolific; its unhealthy dining options can be had in over 119 countries across the world. To her left is the brand’s mascot Ronald McDonald, looking onward gleefully without concern or care for the girl, while on her right is Mickey Mouse – an icon known to children worldwide as an embodiment of wonder, safety and happiness.
Love Is In The Air, also known as the Flower Thrower or LIITA, first appeared in 2003 as a large format stencilled graffiti in Bethlehem shortly after the construction of the West Bank Wall. The graffiti was made on the 760km wall that separates Palestine from Israel.
Spanning 760km, the wall, as Banksy put it, “essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison”. The wall rapidly became a giant canvas for paintings and writings protesting against its construction.
Rendered in Banksy’s characteristic signature stencilled style, Love Is In The Air depicts a young man, dressed as a militant, wearing a baseball cap and a bandana to mask the lower half of his face, in the middle of throwing a grenade or molotov cocktail.
Banksy’s samplings from the art-historical canon are rare, but astute. For a 2018 piece in Paris, for instance, he pilfered a motif from Jacques-Louis David’s painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1800–01). And at the Barbican Centre in 2017, he threw up this biting mural, showing a man and his dog, borrowed from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 work Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump. The figure, its arms in the air, is being dispassionately frisked by two cops wearing bulletproof vests. In the original painting, the figure’s posture reads as a sort of anguished shrug.Here, the composition becomes a commentary on police overreach—perhaps reflecting on how the authorities treat graffiti artists. What’s ironic about all this, Doyle suggested, is that Banksy was able to get away with putting this work in such a public place, without any hassling from the police himself. “It’s impossible to think that the Barbican wasn’t part of it, and didn’t know,” she said. “Now the piece is protected.”
Love is in the Bin is a 2018 art intervention by Banksy at Sotheby’s London, with an unexpected self-destruction of his 2006 painting of Girl with Balloon immediately after it was sold at auction for a record £1,042,000. According to Sotheby’s, it is “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”
After the shredding, there was a negotiation with the buyer to confirm the sale, and on 11 October it was agreed that the sale would go through at the full original price. The work was renamed by Banksy’s representatives, Pest Control, from Girl with Balloon to Love is in the Bin. Market watchers speculated that the self-destruction would increase the artwork’s value. Sotheby’s released a statement that called it “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction”.
It was reported that the artist uploaded a video of the event onto Instagram, showing the construction of the shredding mechanism and frame, but deleted the post. Banksy has released another video indicating that the painting was intended to be shredded completely, showing the painting being shredded with the words: “In rehearsals it worked every time”.
It went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on 14 October 2021, selling for £16m – vastly over its £4-6m guide price.
Devolved Parliament is a 2009 oil-on-canvas painting by Banksy, replacing British politicians debating in the House of Commons with chimpanzees.
The depiction of chimpanzees echoes Banksy’s 2002 work Laugh Now, a 6-foot-long stencilled work showing a row of apes wearing aprons with the inscription “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”.
The two police officers are painted in black and white. Both individuals are shown in full uniform with evident handcuffs and a baton around their respective belts. This portrayal of same-sex intimacy is a common feature of art dating as far back as the 16th century in Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling.
Another significant element of Kissing Coppers is its strategic placement. Location is a crucial component of Banksy’s work as it oftentimes adds additional information concerning the message. This particular image resides in Brighton, England. Brighton is a lively neighborhood which has been referred to as the LGBTQ+ Capital of the UK. Approximately 11-15% of the seaside city are gay or bisexual. In addition, the city is home to the UK’s largest pride celebration each year. Brighton’s rich history with the LGBTQ community dating as far back as the Napoleonic Wars in 1803, has allowed Kissing Coppers to become a cultural staple of the city and its unique population.
Banksy’s mission in creating Bomb Hugger was to dispel the illusions portrayed by the media that war is a beneficial and a necessary part of democracy – the act of an innocent child hugging a missile both symbolised the apparent affection for warfare that the public was encouraged to have, and also exaggerated the contrast between peace and war. The sight of someone so vulnerable, yet so close to danger, was intended to make the viewer feel uneasy. But Bomb Hugger also has an alternative, more uplifting message: that love can conquer all and war can be overcome, or subdued, by goodness. As Banksy wrote in his 2004 book Cut It Out, “Suicide bombers just need a hug”.
The Son of a Migrant from Syria is a 2015 mural by graffiti artist Banksy. The mural was located in the Calais jungle, a nickname for the encampment near Calais, France, where migrants lived as they attempted to enter the United Kingdom. The artwork depicts the late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs—the son of a Syrian migrant to the United States—as a traveling migrant.
On a flat coloured background, sky blue or pink depending on the edition, Flying Copper depicts a strange and paradoxical character: the policeman, fully equipped with machine-gun, helmet, walkie-talkie and handcuffs, but topped with a striking yellow smiley face and a pair of small angel-like wings. The smiley is both a nod to 1990s acid house culture and the innocence of childhood, depending on the interpretation.
Painted on the wall of a building used by the Royal Mail, it depicts a child in a red hooded top painting the phrase, while being watched by a police officer and a dog. The mural was situated adjacent to a CCTV camera. The mural was painted over in April of 2009.