5 Iconic Works by Banksy
A committed artist, Banksy is famous in all four corners of the world. Haunted by political issues, he promotes messages of peace and denounces the excesses of a sick society. At the same time his grating humor mocks the spheres of power, sometimes even the art world itself. He offers or destroys his works, sells them for 60 dollars when they are worth 160,000. But what are the most iconic works by Banksy? Artsper invites you to discover the 5 must-sees!
1. Girl with Balloon, one of the must-have works by Banksy
Certainly one of the most iconic works by Banksy, it’s also a British favorite. Gril with Balloon was first painted in the South Bank area of London in 2002. The mural depicts a little girl trying to catch a heart-shaped balloon blown away by the wind. This palpable tearing away echoes a short phrase to the right of the child: “There is always hope”.
While this work was already iconic for years, it made art history in 2018. Its signed reproduction had just been sold at auction at Sotheby’s for over a million euros when it self-destructed. Under the stunned gaze of the spectators, Banksy tore his little girl to pieces. He mocked as much as he toyed with the art market and its sometimes decadent speculation. A performance in the image of its author: piquant, audacious, and of an incomparable irony. The ostensible goal: to put nails in the wheels of those who drive the machine.
2. Sweeping It Under The Carpet, a tribute to the underrepresented
This work was created in 2006 at Chalk Farm, London. Banksy pays tribute to a cleaning lady called Leanne, who cleaned his room when he lived in Los Angeles. This mural is a way for the street artist to honor a subject that is too little addressed in art. Rather than drawing the portrait of the rich and powerful, Banksy takes the option of immortalizing this woman. A message reinforced by the title of the work, which evokes our annoying tendency to want to ignore social inequalities.
3. Love is in the Air, a work by Banksy for peace
If this work is emblematic, it is mainly due to its location. In 2003, Banksy painted this “flower thrower” in Jerusalem, on the wall dividing Palestine and Israel. It shows a masked man throwing a bouquet of flowers across the border. Replacing the molotov cocktail with colored plants, the activist artist expresses his desire for peace. This same work was later reproduced in 2005 in Bethlehem, on the West Bank.
4. Kissing Coppers, the taboo of love
Like many works by Banksy, this one is explicit: it shows two British policemen passionately kissing each other. Painted in 2004 in Brighton, this portrait approaches with tenderness the taboo subject of homosexuality, especially in the police force. An ode to open-mindedness, to love in all its forms, regardless of the uniform!
5. Dismaland, the (disenchanted) paradise of works by Banksy
Undoubtedly Banksy‘s most colossal work, Dismaland is of an amusement park but quite nonconformist! And it is well-named: a word combining “Disneyland” and “Dismal” (or gloomy). Located near Bristol, the park opened for a deliberately limited time between August and September 2015.
In this apocalyptic funfair, works by Banksy follow one another to sarcastically denounce our societal drifts. A rusty Ferris wheel sits uneasily alongside an armored riot truck, having itself landed in a fountain of rotting water. Cinderella died in a carriage accident, the Little Mermaid seems cryptic, Disney’s castle is falling apart. The duck fishery features oil-soaked birds, the remote-controlled boats are filled with spectral-looking migrants. Even the park’s staff has lost the will to pretend: the employees are literally shooting their mouths off. A disenchanted portrait of a consumer society in perdition, Dismaland expresses all the black humor of its author. It is a setting in an abyss, a superposition of works, blows of mouth, sharp jokes, calls to the revolution.
The works by Banksy leave a lasting impact
If Banksy has acquired such a notoriety, it’s because he marvelously combines different artistic and social codes. Fervent defender of freedom and peace, he protests against the powerful and denounces societal drifts. However, his message is very clear, because he uses the same social codes as those he denounces. Playing on this paradox, Banksy is as subversive as he is mainstream. A clever mix, of which only the artist knows the secret… just like his identity!
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