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Meaning & Analysis

Love Hurts, or Barbed Wire Heart Balloon is one of just 16 prints released by Banksy in 2012. This edition was released for an exclusive selection of the artist's friends and was never made available to the public. Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, is rumoured to own an original Love Hurts canvas.

Over the course of his career, Banksy has reworked the visual motif of the Love Hurts balloon in several different works. In 2017, the image was installed as a painting in the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine - a hotel-come-gallery overlooking the Israeli West Bank Barrier wall, which houses a permanent exhibition of Banksy’s works. A similar balloon was also painted on the streets of Brooklyn during Banksy's New York residency in 2013; titled Better Out Than In, it was later defaced by rival graffiti artist, Omar NYC.

The Love Hurts Banksy print is deceptively simple in its composition, featuring a red heart-shaped Mylar balloon set against a light blue monochromatic background. Appearing to have escaped its owner, the wounded balloon, indicated by the pair of plasters on the top right, is now trapped in a barbed wire fence.

Banksy himself has explained that Love Hurts ‘is obviously an iconic representation of the battle to survive a broken heart. It’s an uplifting visual poem to that most fragile of human emotions that seem to move within us as if on a soft breeze’. 

Love, or the lack of it, is a theme that has preoccupied Banksy throughout his career, and in such works as Love is in the Air (later adapted as a screen print), which depicts a young man throwing a bunch of flowers like a grenade. Appropriating the iconography of Palestinian resistance, the work is meant to signify the act of spreading love. The iconic work Love Rat was also intended as a public message of love.