Banksy's Angels

Year: 2008
Medium: Spray Paint
Dimensions: 125.5 x 155cm
Last Hammer: £320,000 (Phillips London, 2018)
Signed/Unsigned: Unsigned
Banksy's Angels, 2009. A framed spray paint on steel mesh of a monochromatic angelAngels © Banksy 2009
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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Banksy's Angels, a 2009 spray paint creation, stands as a solemn disruption of Christian iconography, diverging starkly from the vivid hues typically associated with divine representations. The artwork, an unsigned original, evokes a spectral presence, the angelic figure materialising from a galvanised steel mesh, her ethereal form rendered through a monochromatic palette. The striking puncture wound and accompanying scarlet cascade at her bosom present a jarring intervention, a visual punctum that anchors the viewer's gaze. This piece, resonating with Banksy's penchant for juxtaposing sanctity with the profane, critiques violence's veneration through a chiaroscuro of shades, redefining the angel as an emblem not of seraphic realms but of earthly strife.

Interpreting Violence in Sacred Imagery

Banksy's Angels is a profound exploration of the juxtaposition between the divine and the mortal, the serene and the violent. This piece offers a visual narrative that delves into the complexities of innocence amid chaos, symbolised through the imagery of an angelic figure suffering from a gunshot wound. The artwork is rich in symbolism; the angel, traditionally an emblem of peace and guardianship, is rendered with a stark bullet wound, introducing a jarring note of violence and suffering that stands in stark contrast to its celestial nature.

The monochrome palette used by Banksy serves to strip away the distractions of colour, focusing the viewer's attention on the gravity of the subject matter. The single streak of red, indicative of blood, becomes a powerful focal point, symbolising the loss of innocence and the intrusion of brutality into spaces once deemed sacred. This colour contrast is not only visually striking but also laden with meaning – it is a call to acknowledge the bloodshed that taints our contemporary society, often overlooked or sanitised.

Analysing the work's context reveals an even deeper layer of meaning. Originating as a street piece in Naples, an area beset by the dichotomies of beauty and violence, Angels reflects the pervasive struggle between these forces within urban life. The angel's presence in such a setting suggests a guardian-like figure over the city's turmoil, yet its wound is a sombre reminder that not even the divine is immune to the afflictions of the human condition.

This blend of religious iconography with contemporary urban struggle is characteristic of Banksy's oeuvre, which often merges historical and modern elements to provoke reflection on current issues. In this vein, the wounded angel becomes a mirror for the viewer's conscience, reflecting the conflicts and moral crises of our time. Banksy's use of a public space for this artwork democratises its impact, allowing it to be a shared experience and commentary, rather than confined to the exclusive realms of galleries or private collections.

“Banksy uses this piece to challenge societal desensitisation to brutality and to reflect on the moral crises impacting our contemporary world.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

The Resonance of Banksy's Angels

In contemplating Banksy's Angels, one is compelled to consider the work's visceral impact, both visually and thematically. The artwork serves as a cogent testament to the artist’s capacity for embedding profound social commentary within the confines of street art. Through its stark imagery, Angels portrays a narrative of loss – not solely of innocence but of humanity’s sanctity, provoking a meditation on the moral compass of contemporary society.

The angel, an archetype of purity, is presented with a grievous wound, a visual metaphor for the incursions of violence into what should be inviolable. Banksy's employment of the angel, set against the backdrop of urban decay, speaks to the erosion of ethical values in the face of relentless urbanisation and societal strife. The choice of galvanised metal mesh as a substrate further embodies the tension between enduring sanctity and transient human conflict. This material, robust yet utilitarian, underscores the resilience required to withstand the depredations of time and the human condition.

Angels remain a reminder of art's ability to reflect its era while simultaneously challenging it. In a time marked by worry and desensitisation, Banksy’s work reasserts the relevance of art as a mirror to society, a catalyst for reflection, and a vehicle of change.

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