Banksy's Corrosive Bird

Year: 2001
Medium: Spray Paint
Dimensions: 76 x 76cm
Last Hammer: £95,000 (Bonhams London, 2015)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy's Corrosive Bird. A stenciled work of a humming bird in front of a yellow and black sign that reads "CORROSIVE."Corrosive Bird © Banksy 2001
Joe Syer

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

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Banksy's Corrosive Bird emerges as a poignant commentary on the environmental crisis through the lens of urban artistry. Crafted in 2001, this spray paint masterpiece juxtaposes the delicate beauty of a hummingbird against the stark warning of a corrosive hazard sign. Through this striking visual paradox, Banksy not only showcases his distinctive stencil technique but also explores themes of innocence, danger, and the impacts of human progress. As the hummingbird attempts to draw sustenance from a symbol of toxicity, Banksy invites viewers into a reflective dialogue on the fragility of the natural world amidst mankind's relentless march towards advancement.

​​Corrosive Bird: Meaning & Analysis

This unsigned work, executed with spray paint and acrylic, captures viewer’s attention through its stark yet simple composition. At its core, a yellow and black hazard sign with the text “CORROSIVE”, accompanied by a symbol depicting a beaker from which a deadly fluid drips. The focal point, however, is a hummingbird, painted with such vibrancy and detail that it appears almost iridescent, seemingly oblivious to the peril as it attempts to drink from the hazardous substance.

Corrosive Bird is emblematic of Banksy's adeptness at conveying profound messages through juxtaposition and irony. The hummingbird, a creature often associated with agility, beauty, and life, is depicted in a moment of fatal ignorance, highlighting the innocence of nature in the face of manmade dangers. Banksy’s use of the hazard sign, a universal symbol of danger, further amplifies the message, suggesting a threat to the natural environment, one that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries.

The shadow beneath the hummingbird, skillfully painted to give the illusion of the bird lifting off the canvas, adds a layer of depth to the piece, both literally and metaphorically. This technique not only showcases Banksy’s mastery over his medium but also imbues the artwork with a sense of hope or potential escape, albeit one that is tragically unattainable for the bird in its ignorance.

Through the metaphor of the hummingbird – a recurring motif in his oeuvre, symbolising freedom and beauty – Banksy critiques mankind's annihilation of the natural world. Corrosive Bird transcends its immediate visual appeal, serving as a call for awareness and change.

“This work showcases Banksy’s mastery of street art techniques while serving as a compelling call to protect the natural environment from corrosive human impacts.”

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

Reflections on Banksy's Corrosive Bird

When considering the depth and complexity of Banksy's Corrosive Bird, it becomes clear that this artwork surpasses the conventional boundaries of street art to engage in a conversation with the viewer about the environmental challenges of our time. Through the simple yet powerful imagery of a hummingbird unknowingly imperilled by manmade hazards, Banksy offers a stark visual narrative that resonates with a broad audience, urging a collective introspection on our relationship with the world around us.

The significance of Corrosive Bird lies in its ability to convey a message of urgency and caution without resorting to didacticism. Instead, Banksy employs a blend of beauty, irony, and symbolism to evoke a sense of responsibility and awareness among viewers. The choice of a hummingbird, a creature often celebrated for its vibrancy and agility, as the focal point of this narrative highlights the vulnerability of even the most spirited elements of nature to the consequences of our actions.

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