Girl With Balloon is a highly desirable limited edition signed screen print in colour from a series of 150 released in 2004 in Banksy’s signature graffiti stencil technique.
Girl With Balloon is one of the most sought-after Banksy images for collectors, old and new. The work depicts a young girl, whose hair and dress are blowing in the wind, reaching for a red, heart-shaped balloon that has slipped from her grasp and is flying out of reach. The red balloon is an archetypal symbol many of us connect with as a motif of childhood and hope; and the picture, depending on whether you see the girl as losing the balloon, or about to catch it, can be viewed either as a loss of innocence, or the arrival of hope. The heart-shaped balloon has been recognised as a symbol for dreams, aspirations, childlike purity and innocence, whilst the heart shape may simply stand for hope, or joy. Banksy often uses children throughout his oeuvre in a similar context, seen in other notable works such as No Ball Games, Jack&Jill and Nola bearing similar associations.
This work originally appeared in London’s Southbank accompanied by a quotation that read, 'there is always hope' and was meant to be covered up by the local council. However, Girl With Balloon quickly became one of Banksy’s most iconic works, voted the UK's most favourite piece of art in 2017.
The work became the subject of the most talked about public art stunt in history the following year, when a signed canvas of Girl with Balloon shredded itself in front of the entire auction saleroom, as the hammer came down on a final £1.4 million bid at Sotheby's Evening Sale. Banksy posted an image of the work shredding itself on his own Instagram feed the same day, with the caption: 'Going, going, gone.'
Pest Control, Banksy’s only authentication body, gave the work a new title, Love is in the Bin. The buyer of the work, a female European collector, proceeded with her purchase, commenting, “When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realise that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”
It seems Girl with a Balloon resonates across all audiences - even pop icon Justin Bieber got a tattoo on his right arm, seemingly meant to replicate the work. When Bieber posted his new ink on his social media account Banksy’s fans quickly called for it to be 'amputated under copyright law', the comment received over 2,500 ‘likes’.
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