17 Mar 10 of Banksy’s most famous works
Banksy is arguably the most famous living artist in the world. The social and political themes of elusive street artist’s provocative paintings has had an influence on the art world for decades, and he is certainly one of the most popular artists we deal with here at ArtLife. Indeed, we always have plenty of interest from people keen to buy and sell Banksy’s work.
The British icon has created dozens upon dozens of groundbreaking pieces in his lifetime, and continues to share his unique view of the world with his millions of fans. Here, we run through 10 of Banksy’s most famous works.
1. Girl with Balloon
Girl with Balloon is undoubtedly one of Banksy’s most recognizable works. The image of a little girl reaching towards a red heart-shaped balloon was created as part of a London series of street art works starting in 2002. As well as being one of Banksy’s most famous pieces, it’s also one of his most optimistic, as the original mural was accompanied by the words “There is always hope”. None of the paintings from the series remain on the streets, but sets of limited edition Girl with Balloon prints were released during the 2000s, and are now incredibly valuable. In fact, a print of the girl reaching for a purple balloon sold for over $1 million in September 2020 — the most expensive print sold in an online auction.
2. Love is in the Bin
Even the auction of a particular Girl with Balloon print became another famous Bansky work in 2018, when it unexpectedly self-destructed the second after the gavel fell on the winning bid. After the painting was sold at Sotheby’s for an artist-record price of $1,366,672, it suddenly started to slide out of its frame, shredding itself as it descended. Banksy’s representatives renamed the partially shredded painting Love is in the Bin, and Sotheby’s declared it “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction”. The artist later revealed that he’d planned to shred the entire painting, posting a video proving this and noting: “In rehearsals it worked every time…”
3. Pulp Fiction
Banksy painted a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s hit 1994 film featuring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in character, however in this depiction, they are holding bananas instead of guns. The striking street art existed near Old Street tube station in London between 2002 to 2007, before being painted over by Transport for London. Banksy humorously struck back by repainting the piece, but this time with the characters holding guns and dressed as bananas. Pulp Fiction prints are very popular with collectors, with one selling for over $160,000 at auction in November 2020.
4. Di Faced Tenner
Di Faced Tenner — a play on the word “defaced” — is a famous Banksy work created for a public art stunt in 2004. A series of fake £10 notes, they were released at Notting Hill Carnival and the Reading Festival in the UK, with some revelers actually using them as currency. In Banksy’s version, the late Princess Diana replaces Queen Elizabeth II, with an inscription reading ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price’ likely referring to the death of “The People’s Princess” at the hands of the media. The notes also swap ‘Bank of England’ with ‘Banksy of England’. In his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, the artist claims to have printed about £100 million in fake currency although most remain in his possession, leaving the ones which are in circulation sell for thousands of dollars.
5. Laugh Now
Monkeys are a common subject in Banksy’s art, and one of the most famous examples is Laugh Now. This was one of his early works, commissioned by a nightclub in Brighton, UK, and features a monkey wearing a sandwich board which reads “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. The facial expression and body language of the chimp suggest that the animal is enslaved — perhaps a metaphor for the oppressed people in society who Banksy believes will one day rise up to take power. There are thought to be fewer than 1000 Laugh Now prints in circulation, making each one extremely coveted.
6. Love Is In The Air
Love Is In The Air is perhaps Banksy’s most powerful piece, due to its original placement on the West Bank Wall which separates Israel from Palestine. Also known as Flower Thrower, the stencil depicts a man masking his face with a bandana as he prepares to throw a bunch of flowers like one would throw a grenade or molotov cocktail, symbolizing the power of love and peace over conflict. The work is incredibly famous, and has been reproduced on T-shirts, phone covers and more. Love Is In The Air prints continue to be in high demand, with one selling for $248,776 in June 2013 — a 63.2% increase on the print’s top estimate.
7. Queen Victoria
Banksy is not one to shy away from controversy, and perhaps the best example of this is Queen Victoria. The famed British monarch, who once asserted that women “were not able to be gay”, is here depicted sitting on a woman’s face in a sexual act known as ‘queening’. This provocative, yet highly humorous piece, emphasizes the artist’s disdain for the Royal Family, and the hypocrisy he believes they embody. Queen Victoria prints were released in 2003, in a limited edition of only 50 signed and 500 unsigned copies.
8. Devolved Parliament
Banksy is famous for his street art, but one of his most notable works is actually oil on canvas. Reminiscent of Laugh Now, Devolved Parliament shows chimpanzees dominating the UK’s House of Commons instead of British politicians, but rather than debating policies, the scene is instead one of madness and mayhem. Originally, the painting was titled Question Time, but Banksy renamed and reworked the piece before exhibiting it in March 2019. Seven months later, the piece went on to set an auction high for the artist when it sold for over $12 million — just four weeks before Britain was scheduled to leave the European Union.
9. Kissing Coppers
Kissing Coppers depicts two male police officers in a passionate embrace, and is widely considered one of Banksy’s best-known works. Critics are divided when it comes to its meaning, with some believing that the piece attempts to normalize and promote the public acceptance of homosexuality. However, much like his interpretation of Queen Victoria, others think that the artist is mocking authority figures who discriminate against a common identity. The work was originally unveiled on the wall of a pub in Brighton, with the owners eventually deciding to remove and sell it for $575,000 in February 2014.
10. Basquiat homages
The last examples in our list of famous Banksy works pay homage to another of our favorite street artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat. Days before a show at the London Barbican on the late American icon in September 2017, Banksy left two paintings on the venue’s walls. One was his take on Basquiat’s Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, with the figure this time being frisked by the Metropolitan Police. Another piece, named Banksquiat, shows people queuing for a ferris wheel that is full of crowns, a common Basquiat motif. Banksy uploaded this work to Instagram with the caption: “Major new Basquiat show opens at the Barbican — a place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls.” The piece went up for auction for the first time in August 2020, and we also have Banksquiat prints here for sale at ArtLife.