Banksy prints are high in demand, but it is his original artworks that make the insatiable desire for his work abundantly clear.
From his notorious self-destructing work, Love Is In The Bin, to oils that rework Old Master paintings, Banksy’s original artworks are charged with satire and have retained their relevance over the course of his career.
But which are Banksy's key artworks? Since that is largely a matter fror personal taste, the following cannot possibly be definitive. Instead, we have ranked the best of Banksy's original artworks according to which have gone on to be the most widely famous and, of course, a dash of personal bias.
Here are our top 10 Banksy originals:
Banksy's most recent original artwork (excluding street murals), yet one that will doubtless retain its fame for a while, Love is in the Bin is the reincarnation of Banksy’s famous canvas work, Girl with Balloon from 2006, which depicts a young girl reaching out her hand towards a red balloon, rendered in the artist’s iconic stencil style.
This version was created as the result of the artist’s famous auction stunt at the 2018 Sotheby’s Evening Auction on October 5th. The very moment that the hammer came down at the then-record price of £1,042,000, the artwork ceremoniously shredded itself to the shock of the live auction audience. Banksy had allegedly planned to destroy the painting completely, as suggested by his Instagram post after the event that showed the fully shredded work along with the quote “In rehearsals it worked every time.”
The half-destroyed artwork was authenticated as a new original painting and given the name Love is in the Bin, valued at £4-6 million. In October 2021, it set Banksy’s new auction record, selling for £18,582,000 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on the 14th of October.
Love is in the Bin is perhaps the most well-known Banksy original and an iconic testament to Banksy’s endless resourcefulness, creativity and wit.
Mediterranean Sea View was created by Banksy as a triptych in 2017. The set of three oil paintings raises awareness about the European migrant crisis, depicting numerous orange life jackets spread across a traditional, Romantic seascape. It was initially on view at Banksy’s famous exhibition space, the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, which overlooks the controversial Israeli West Bank barrier separating Israel from the Palestinian territories. Mediterranean Sea View is an example of Banksy’s highly political work that spotlights prescient global issues.
Banksy donated the triptych to Sotheby’s for their Rembrandt to Richter Evening Sale on July 28, 2017 to raise funds for a hospital in Bethlehem. The work eventually sold for £2.2 million with all proceeds supporting the Bethlehem Arab Society of Rehabilitation to build a new stroke unit and purchase equipment for children’s rehabilitation.
Another among Banksy's best original art to comment on the political status quo, and known as one of Banksy’s most provocative political works, Devolved Parliament is a seminal artwork, first created in 2009. The image depicts the British House of Commons filled with chimpanzees and orangutans instead of people, a way of mocking political elites. Once again, we have the motif of the monkey, standing in as a symbol for mankind, which recurs in other significant Banksy artworks, such as the painting Monkey Poison and the limited-edition print Laugh Now.
Initially titled Question Time and valued at £1.5-2 million, it was shown at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in 2009, and sold to a private collector in 2011. Devolved Parliament eventually sold for £9.9 million at the Sotheby’s Post-war and Contemporary Art Evening sale in 2019, setting a new record for Banksy at that time.
Banksy commented on the result in a sarcastic Instagram post saying “Record price for a Bansky painting set at auction tonight. Shame I didn’t still own it”, along with a quote by art critic Robert Hughes: “But the price of a work of art is now part of its function, its new job to sit on the wall and get more expensive.”
Banksy’s painting Subject to Availability from 2009 is part of the popular series Vandalised Oils paintings that reimagine traditional works of art with a satirical, contemporary edge.
In his version of the 1890 oil painting of Mount Rainier National Park by Albert Bierstadt, Banksy makes a witty intervention in the form of a footnote at the bottom of the idyllic landscape: reading “Subject to availability for a limited period.” A tongue-in-cheek reference to the devastating effects of climate change on natural landscapes, Banksy’s concern with the damage inflicted by us on the natural world is clear.
The painting was displayed in the artist’s famous exhibition at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, and sold for £4.6 million on June 30th, 2021, at Christie’s London. Subject to Availability is exemplary of Banksy’s politics, visual language and skill: synthesising poignant social critique whilst combining high and low art.
Trolley Hunters is an original oil painting created by Banksy in 2006. It depicts three prehistoric men with weapons in the process of hunting down a group of shopping trolleys, set against a landscape of baby-blue skies and yellow grass. This humorous, anti-consumerist painting highlights our dependence on contemporary capitalism, by juxtaposing the pre-modern state of nature and self-sufficiency to a present that is dominated by excessive consumerism.
Using trolleys to symbolise capitalism is something of a motfif for Banksy, as we saw the previous year, with Show me the Monet, another of Banksy’s famous originals. Trolley Hunters was originally exhibited at Banksy’s 2006 Barely Legal exhibition in a Los Angeles warehouse, and has since sold for £4.9 million at Sotheby’s New York on November 18th, 2021.
A key work from Banksy’s Vandalised Oil series, Vandalised Oil (Choppers) from 2006 captures the anti-war ethos that permeates the artist’s body of work. The painting is a reproduction of a pastoral scene by artist Claude Lorrain into which Banksy inserts two ominous military choppers as they approach from the horizon.
These machines of war draw on the iconography of the Vietnam War, providing a stark juxtaposition with the idyllic blue sky and landscape. iIt comes as no surprise, then, that this painting is often considered a commentary on the Iraq war that was raging at the time of its creation. The same stencilled choppers also appear in Banksy’s popular print series Happy Choppers, suggesting that the helicopter motif is a key tool in the artist’s fight against politically motivated warfare.
Coming directly from the collection of British pop star Robbie Williams, Vandalised Oil (Choppers) sold for £4.4 million at Sotheby’s London on March 1st, 2022.
Laugh Now is an original spray painting on metal, executed by Banksy in 2006. The image features the stencilled figure of a monkey, with a sign hanging around its neck reading: “Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge”. The image is the same as that of the popular limited edition print series, Laugh Now, released earlier, in 2003.
Laugh Now exemplifies the anti-elitist and revolutionary tendencies of Banksy’s work, with the despondent monkey here symbolising the oppressed masses. The artist often uses the monkey as a stand-in for different classes, to various effects, such as in the print series Monkey Queen and in the original painting Devolved Parliament, to convey anti-establishment and anti-royalist sentiment.
This unique painting was first displayed at Banksy’s Barely Legal exhibition in a Los Angeles warehouse in 2006, where it was purchased by a private collector. When it was offered again at auction with Sotheby’s London in June 2019, it sold for £2.4 million. Sotheby’s announced that it would also accept payment in bitcoin or ethereum in addition to British Pounds.
Sunflowers from Petrol Station is a 2005 reinvention of Van Gogh’s iconic Sunflowers. In Banksy’s contemporary version of the 19th century masterpiece, the blooming flowers are replaced with withering stems and dried out, fallen petals.
Likely a reference to the climate crisis and the devastation of nature propelled by human technology, in Banksy’s characteristic style, this work combines acute social criticism with sardonic humour. Unlike his typical use of the stencil however, Sunflowers from Petrol Station has been hand-painted in the post-impressionist style of Van Gogh, proving that Banksy is anything but a one-trick-pony.
Exhibited at Banksy’s landmark exhibition Crude Oils: A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin in October 2005 in Mayfair, the painting sold for £11 million at the Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale in New York on November 8th, 2021. The painting came directly from the private collection of famous British fashion designer Sir Paul Smith.
Banksy created Show me the Monet in 2005. The framed oil painting is perhaps the most recognisable of Banksy’s Crude Oils series—works which appropriate classical works of art from the historical canon. Here we see a traffic cone and abandoned shopping carts dumped in Claude Monet’s Japanese-inspired painting of his pond. Its tongue-in-cheek critique is directed at consumer capitalism and its detrimental effects on the environment.
Exhibited at Banksy’s landmark Crude Oils exhibition ‘A Gallery of Re-mixed Masterpieces, Vandalism and Vermin’ in Mayfair, it was then displayed at the Museum Jorn in Denmark in From Jorn to Banksy – The Art of Détournement alongside works by pivotal 20th century artists like Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters and Joan Miró.
Show me the Monet sold for £7.5 million at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on October 21st, 2020 as the then-second most expensive Banksy original. The method of execution, critical subject matter, and the fusion of high art, street art, and popular culture, underscore this painting’s value and why it resonates with so many people today.
Monkey Poison is an early Banksy canvas, executed in 2004 as a part of the Crude Oils series. The darkly comical work is a reproduction of an Old Masters painting in a gilded frame depicting a bucolic pastoral landscape. In the foreground one of Banksy’s beloved chimpanzees is stencilled into the scene, appearing markedly out of place as it guzzles down a carton of flammable gasoline. The monkey is a common symbol that reappears throughout Banksy’s oeuvre, and we see it in many of his significant works like Monkey Queen, Laugh Now and Devolved Parliament.
First exhibited at the seminal Crude Oils show in 2005, Monkey Poison challenges the boundary between high and low art. The piece is interpreted as a critical commentary on the ignorance of consumer society and animal cruelty, bringing together the sardonic humour and socio-political force of Banksy’s practice. The work was sold at Christie’s for £1.6 million on July 1st 2020.