Banksy's Vote To Love

Year: 2018
Medium: Mixed Media
Dimensions: 117 x 116.5 x 8.5cm
Last Hammer: £950,000 (Sotheby’s London, 2020)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
Vote To Love (2018) is a signed spray painting on UPIK placard mounted on board. Patched with sticking plasters, a heart-shaped balloon occupies a central position in the work, turning the political slogan ‘Vote to Leave’ into ‘Vote to Love’.Vote To Love © Banksy 2018
Joe Syer

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

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In the riveting work Vote To Love, created in 2018, the anonymous artist Banksy offers a heart-shaped political manifesto. Spanning 117 by 116.5 by 8.5 cm, the piece wields spray paint to craft a narrative both political and passionate, indicative of the UK's tumultuous ambiance during the Brexit period. Displaying a bold political edge that has become characteristic of his body of work throughout the years, Vote To Love is a signed spray painting on UPIK placard mounted on board. The artwork emerged as a high-impact participant in The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition of the same year.

Vote To Love: Meaning & Analysis

This work, conceived amidst the UK’s politically divided landscape during the Brexit campaigns, resonates with a profound topicality of the state of the nation. At the forefront, a heart-shaped balloon patched with sticking plasters commands the viewer’s gaze. This central figure is a transformative element that metamorphoses the original “Vote to Leave” slogan into a plea for unity and compassion instead — "Vote to Love". By appropriating and recontextualising the Brexit campaign's iconography, Banksy ingeniously converts a symbol of division into a beacon of solidarity.

Vote To Love has multiple levels of interpretation. At its core, the artwork is a palpable reaction to the UK's heated Brexit debate, providing a stark commentary on the divisiveness of the nation's socio-political condition. Through the visual juxtaposition of the original placard message with the altered one, Banksy advocates for a collective identity that empowers and unites, opposing the divisive rhetoric that characterised much of the Brexit discourse. This piece stands out not necessarily for its aesthetic prowess, but mostly for the depth of its message, echoing the turmoil and the aspirational undertones of its time.

The placard’s metamorphosis under Banksy’s hand does not solely offer a critique; rather, it poses a question of possibilities. What does it mean to choose love over departure, union over division? How might a society shift its narrative by altering a single word? The answer lies partly in the physicality of the artwork — the sticking plasters on the balloon suggest healing, a makeshift attempt to repair what has been torn asunder. This heart, wounded yet still afloat, serves as a metaphor for the resilience and hope needed in trying times.

Banksy's work, as Vote To Love exemplifies, often blurs the line between art and activism. This piece does not simply exist for artistic merit – it was created to participate in the conversation, incite discussion and challenge the public perception of what art can and should do. In a world where political slogans often reduce complex issues to binary choices, Banksy's intervention reminds us of art's power to reinterpret and reinvent the narrative. Vote To Love is a significant emblem of Banksy's enduring legacy — one that consistently melds the irreverent with the profound. It is a testament to the belief in the transformative power of love over the divisive rhetoric of politics, standing as a historical testament to the time of its creation — a time capsule capturing the essence of public sentiment during a significant moment in the United Kingdom’s history. It is this tangible connection to time and event that often elevates the worth of Banksy’s pieces, rendering them not only as art but as historical artefacts.

“In Vote To Love, Banksy engages in the socio-political dialogue while also challenging us to reconsider the impact of words and symbols in shaping public political discourse.”

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

Vote To Love and Subverting UKIP

The artistic choice of repurposing a UKIP poster for this work engages with the concept of détournement, a strategy famously employed by the Situationist International to subvert and reclaim messages conveyed by political and advertising signage. The act of repurposing is also a direct nod to the DIY culture and the street art ethos of using what is available in the environment to create something new and thought-provoking, something that harks back to Banksy’s own artistic practice over the past decades.

By using a UKIP poster — a potent symbol of the 'Leave' campaign in the Brexit referendum — Banksy is effectively seizing a political message and reorienting its meaning. This particular poster, which intended to rally voters for the UK's exit from the European Union, is through the artist’s intervention transformed into a commentary on the very political environment that produced it. Banksy disrupts the original narrative of division and nationalism by overlaying the harsh command to "Leave" with a vulnerable yet enduring symbol of love. The alteration does not erase the original message but builds upon it, creating a layered work that speaks to both the tensions of the time and the possibility of a different choice. By choosing a UKIP poster, Banksy is not just critiquing a political stance but is also making a statement about the power structures within society and the ability of art to challenge and reinterpret those structures.

In the context of Brexit – a campaign marked by polarising narratives and populist rhetoric – the transformation of a UKIP poster into a message of love is an act of artistic defiance, which suggests a refusal to accept the discourse as presented and acts as a call to consider the humanity behind political slogans. It is a potent reminder that in the midst of heated political debate, the fundamental values of compassion and unity can become obscured. As such, Banksy’s intervention with the Vote To Love piece reflects a deliberate and poignant resistance to the divisive nature of the Brexit campaign. The sticking plasters on the balloon symbolise both the damage inflicted by such division and the potential for healing. The heart, though patched, still has the capacity to love, implying that despite the bitterness of political campaigns, there remains a choice for solidarity and hope.

The UKIP poster, once a medium for a singular exclusionary message, becomes, in Banksy’s hands, a canvas advocating for inclusivity and affection.

Vote To Love: Exhibition History

London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition 2018, June - August 2018

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