Banksy's Armoured Car

Year: 2002
Medium: Spray Paint
Dimensions: 60 x 60cm
Last Hammer: £104,468 (Phillips New York, 2017)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy’s Armoured Car. A spray paint and acrylic work of an army tank with animated bunny ears and a bow on it. Armoured Car © Banksy 2002
Joe Syer

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

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Protected by his anonymity, Banksy has always used his work to attack authority and champion those harmed by injustice. In many works from the early 2000s, Banksy dresses military vehicles with cartoonish motifs, as we see in his Happy Choppers. Likewise, Armoured Car merges the realistic black and white military car with cartoon bunny ears and a bow. This macabre play with the vehicle is Banksy's critique of the idea of war being used to bring about peace.

Armoured Car: Meaning & Analysis

In Armoured Car, the dissonance between martial might and childlike whimsy is strikingly rendered by Banksy's hand. The stark monochrome of a military vehicle is softened by the absurd addition of pastel bunny ears and a bow, symbols more at home in a child's innocent drawing than a war zone. This unsigned 2002 spray painting, crafted with Banksy’s characteristic stencil precision, invokes a dialogue on the incongruity of war's purported peace-making claims. In this work, the artist’s critique is as sharp as the lines he sprays, laying bare the contradictions inherent in militaristic aggression masked as a force for good. The estimated value of Armoured Car, despite its playful visage, speaks to the gravity of its commentary and the market's recognition of Banksy’s provocative artistry.

In Armoured Car, Banksy presents an unsettling harmony between the implements of war and the guileless symbols of childhood. The black spray paint, applied with meticulous care, shapes the formidable outline of a military vehicle. Yet, this stark representation is subverted by the superimposed pastel bunny ears and a bow, infusing the composition with jarring incongruity. The artwork encapsulates the artist’s critique of warfare and its instruments, interrogating their place in a world where the innocence symbolised by the childlike additions is constantly under threat.

Banksy’s stark monochromatic scheme emphasises the brutal reality of the armoured vehicle, a creation designed for destruction and conflict. The application of cartoonish elements to this symbol of aggression does not diminish the vehicle's potential for violence; instead, it serves to underscore the absurdity of its existence. Through this, Banksy articulates a profound paradox: the tools of war, which are ostensibly created to secure peace, are as out of place in the pursuit of harmony as bunny ears on a tank.

The vehicle, devoid of any human presence, becomes an autonomous entity, its purpose and power unmitigated by human agency. This depersonalisation invites viewers to consider the machinery of conflict as an independent force, one that shapes human experience and history with a cold indifference to the softer, more delicate aspects of human culture, represented by the playful ears and bow.

Banksy’s Armoured Car becomes a canvas of contradiction. The symbols of innocence are not simply a critique of the military-industrial complex but a broader commentary on the societal acceptance of such contradictions. They challenge the viewer to reconcile the coexistence of violence and naivety, power and play. In doing so, Banksy not only questions the justification of war but also the passive societal complicity in the face of its ever-looming shadow.

Armoured Car not only underscores Banksy’s knack for visual satire but also deepens the discourse on the role of art in questioning and influencing public perception of war and policy.”

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

Armoured Car: A Socio-Political Statement

The imagery of Banksy’s Armoured Car serves as a potent socio-political statement, exploring the constructs of power and the impact of militarisation on the public psyche. The juxtaposition of the vehicle of war adorned with a child’s doodle-like drawing of a soldier prompts a deeper reflection on the innocence lost to war and the glorification of military might. It's as if Banksy is suggesting that the true nature of war is as simple and as brutally honest as a child's interpretation: an unsettling game played by adults with real casualties.

Banksy's choice of medium, spray paint, traditionally associated with graffiti – a form of expression often considered rebellious and outside the bounds of legitimate art – further emphasises the anti-establishment message. The transient nature of spray paint, commonly used to mark territories or protest, becomes a metaphor for the fleeting and often overlooked impacts of military aggression. The armoured car, stationary yet imposing, symbolises the inescapable presence of military influence in daily life and the difficulty in erasing its mark from history.

Armoured Car also interrogates the societal normalisation of military presence. The playfulness of the design on the armoured car starkly contrasts with its actual purpose, prompting the viewer to question the desensitisation towards military vehicles and personnel in civilian spaces. It brings to light the uncomfortable coexistence of instruments of war in public spaces, a sight that has become alarmingly ordinary in certain parts of the world.

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