Banksy's Hummingbird

Year: 2015
Medium: Mixed Media
Dimensions: 65 x 55 x 40cm
Last Hammer: £1,182,610 (Christie's Hong Kong, 2021)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Banksy’s Hummingbird. A framed spray paint work of a hummingbird drinking from a graffiti flower.Hummingbird © Banksy 2015
Joe Syer

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

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Created in 2015, Hummingbird diverges from Banksy's traditional stencil graffiti, presenting a sophisticated mix of painting and sculpture encased in a luxurious gold frame. With Hummingbird, Banksy not only continues to challenge societal norms but also ventures into a dialogue with the canon itself, blurring the lines between street art and high art. This piece stands as a testament to Banksy's evolving narrative, one that continues to captivate and provoke thought in equal measure.

Hummingbird: Meaning & Analysis

At its core, Hummingbird articulates a moment of explosive beauty, with a fibreglass bird caught in perpetual motion, emanating from a splatter of white paint that signifies an explosion replacing the central flower head. This piece is meticulously housed within a gold frame, a choice that imbues the work with an air of traditional artistic value and grandeur, whilst simultaneously mocking the very conventions it adheres to.

Banksy's choice of the hummingbird, a motif repeated throughout his oeuvre, is laden with symbolism. The bird, depicted as if it were spraying paint from its beak, mirrors the act of graffiti artistry, transforming an otherwise mundane bird into a symbol of creative freedom and rebellion. This motif echoes Banksy's thematic exploration of finding beauty in the obvious, a central tenet of his work. By integrating the hummingbird into Hummingbird, Banksy not only revisits a familiar emblem but also imbues it with a new layer of meaning, elevating the creature into a larger commentary on artistic creation and perception.

Hummingbird challenges the viewer to reconsider the boundaries between street art and fine art. By placing a traditionally lowbrow medium like spray paint within a gilded frame, Banksy blurs the lines of artistic legitimacy, questioning the criteria that segregate art forms into hierarchical categories. This juxtaposition serves as a critique of the art market's valuation processes, highlighting the arbitrary nature of what is deemed valuable or worthy of museum display. Banksy's work, particularly Hummingbird, becomes a vehicle for this critique, offering a visual paradox that demands reflection on the worth and placement of street art within the broader art historical canon.

“By placing street art elements within a gilded frame, Banksy provocatively questions the hierarchies of the art world, critiquing how art is valued and categorised.”

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

Reflections on Banksy's Hummingbird

At the heart of Hummingbird lies a celebration of the potential for art to transcend traditional boundaries and to challenge the conventions that have long governed the art world. Banksy's integration of a sculptural element that breaks free from the confines of its frame symbolises a breaking free from societal constraints, urging a reevaluation of what constitutes art and who gets to make that determination. This piece, with its blend of graffiti and sculptural elements, challenges the viewer to reconsider the value we ascribe to different forms of expression and to appreciate the beauty in unconventional mediums.

Beyond its aesthetic and economic considerations, Hummingbird resonates as a metaphor for resilience and adaptability. Just as the hummingbird hovers and adapts to extract nectar, Banksy's art flourishes in spaces not traditionally associated with artistic value, drawing attention to overlooked beauty and societal ills. This adaptability is emblematic of Banksy's broader artistic strategy, which employs surprise, irony, and wit to engage with viewers and to prompt societal introspection.

Hummingbird Exhibition History

UK, Dismaland, Weston-super-Mare August – September 2015.

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