Banksy's Applause (2006) is a biting critique of the media-driven public approval given to western leaders who engage in war. The prints depict a fighter jet preparing for take-off, with two air traffic controllers holding comedy-show style signs. The background photograph is from a well-known collection featuring President George W. Bush deploying a military bomber.
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Part of his 2006 Barely Legal portfolio, Banksy’s Applause is a prime example of the artist’s satirical criticism of western warfare.
Alongside Grannies, Morons, Trolleys, Sale Ends and Festival, which measure approximately 76 cm x 57 cm, Applause measures a much larger 114 cm x 76 cm. It is also by far the most detailed work of these editions, resembling a sketch as opposed to the usual Banksy print or graffitied stencil art.
The print depicts a fighter jet on the runway of a huge aircraft carrier and is based on a well-known image of former American President George W. Bush deploying a military bomber. Next to the jet are two air traffic controllers wearing high-vis jackets and preparing the fighter jet for take-off. One of the controllers is holding a sign on which is written the word APPLAUSE in capital letters, like those employed in comedy theatres to ask the audience to cheer on cue.
The artwork is monochromatic, except for the yellow of the controllers’ vests and the red sign, and highlights the trivialisation of serious issues such as military power and misuse. The artist signifies his disapproval of a world in which images of aggression are communicated 24 hours a day, through television or social media, and of a world where political conflicts have become a form of amusement, leading to the public becoming desensitised to the true nature of violence.
Festival © Banksy 2006
Applause was first released at Banksy’s momentous Barely Legal (aptly named, given the headlines it stirred) show in Los Angeles in 2006, as an edition of 100 unsigned prints, each selling for US$500. Visitors to the exhibition had the chance to buy a special portfolio called the Barely Legal Print Set, which contained Grannies, Applause, Sale Ends, Festival, Trolleys, and Morons. These are now among Banksy’s rarest and most sought-after prints, and even more valuable when sold as a complete set.
After Barely Legal closed, Modern Multiples were ordered to destroy the plates for the six prints, so they could never be reproduced without the involvement of Banksy’s UK-based printer at the time, Pictures On Walls.
Barely Legal LA Set (Unsigned) © Banksy 2006
Banksy is known best for his black and white stencil art. Five out of six of the Barely Legal Print Set follow this style faithfully, with the addition of a few bursts of colour, and subsequently helped to sky-rocket Banksy’s success as a stencil artist. Applause, however, is made using a photomontage method, inspired and assisted by artist Peter Kennard. To create the piece, Banksy put together a series of individual photographs, instead of by designing and spray-painting stencils. The result is a completely unique effect that more closely resembles a black and white sketch.
Applause © Banksy 2006
A second way that Applause differs from the other five prints is in its size. While the first five measure 76 x 57 cm, Applause measures 114 x 76 cm, making it the largest print edition Banksy has ever released. This change in size may be to do with the different method of production used or the sheer amount of detail included.
Sale Ends was the only print from Banksy's Bare Legal that was subject to a third release. (Sale Ends (Version 2) © Banksy 2017)