Banksy’s Girl With Balloon is perhaps as recognisable as the street artist is mysterious. The image has appeared on walls, in prints, online and even on the arm of a celebrity singer. Here are 10 quick facts about Banksy’s most famous work.
1. When was Girl with Balloon created?
Girl with Balloon, also called Balloon Girl or Girl With A Balloon, was first created in London in 2002 – the work was originally stencilled on the walls under Waterloo Bridge at London’s Southbank. Another version appeared around the same time in Shoreditch, East London, on the walls of a printing shop. Both stencils are now lost, but the image lives on.
2. The artwork is a symbol of hope
The original stencil at Southbank was accompanied by a quote that read “There Is Always Hope”. Some people interpret Girl with Balloon as a symbol of lost innocence, whilst others believe the girl is setting the balloon free – either way, Banksy is reminding the viewer to hold on to hope, even when it feels out of reach.
3. It can also be a symbol of activism
Banksy has created variations of Girl With Balloon to address political issues. In 2014, he created a version featuring the girl wearing a headscarf, to support victims of the Syria conflict. Two years later, the artist reworked the design to feature a Union Jack balloon, and offered a free print of it to Bristol locals who voted against the Conservative government.
4. When did Banksy release Girl with Balloon as a print?
Banksy first released prints of Girl With Balloon in 2004–05 – there were only 150 signed editions and 600 unsigned editions. When it was released, Banksy offered signed editions for only £150. They now regularly sell for six-figure sums, including the most expensive Banksy print ever sold.
5. How many balloon colours are there?
There are five colour variations for Girl with Balloon, the red balloon is the most iconic but Banksy has also created versions in purple, blue, pink and gold. In March 2021, a signed artist proof with a gold balloon sold for £1,104,000 at Sotheby’s in London – setting a new world record for a Banksy print. Read more.
6. In 2017, it was chosen as the nation’s favourite artwork
7. The work made headlines when it self-destructed at auction
Just seconds after a painting of Girl With Balloon sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2018, the artwork suddenly began to destroy itself through a shredder hidden inside the frame. The winning bidder went through with the purchase anyway, and the work was renamed Love Is In The Bin – the only original artwork ever to be created live at auction.
8. Shredding your own Girl With Balloon will not increase its value
While we estimate that Love Is In The Bin is now worth twice as much as Girl With Balloon, the same cannot be said for any DIY versions done at home.
We've had a number of #Banksy print owners contact us today asking if they shred their artwork will it be worth more. Please, Please DON'T. The events of the last 24hrs are a very unique piece of art history. #GirlWithBalloon
— MyArtBroker (@myartbroker) October 6, 2018
But one opportunistic collector went ahead and shredded their unsigned Girl With Balloon print in hopes of increasing its value. They took a piece of art worth roughly £40,000 and, in our opinion, made its value £1. They requested MyArtBroker list the print for a minimum of £80,000. We refused for a number of reasons, one of them being we just couldn’t believe the stupidity involved and the opportunistic vandalism.
Ian Syer, MyArtBroker Co-Founder, said: “Banksy is unique to the art world. No other artist captures the hearts and minds of the public like he does. However, when Banksy does something crazy like shredding his own artwork, it will naturally have a dramatic effect on values. What this person today seems to have done is needlessly ruin a print worth around £40k and reduce its value to almost nothing. We strongly recommend nobody else takes valuable art and tries to cash in on what history will judge a simply brilliant stunt. There are limited numbers of Girl With Balloon prints in the world, today, we lost one and it’s a crying shame.”
9. Which celebrity has a tattoo inspired by the artwork?
The Canadian singer Justin Bieber had the girl from Girl With Balloon tattooed onto his arm in 2014 and posted a photo of it on his Instagram. Banksy quickly shared the picture on his Facebook page, commenting simply: “Controversial”. Bieber has since removed the Instagram post, but not the tattoo.
10. Girl With Balloon is one of the most popular works with Banksy collectors
At the moment it’s not possible to buy Girl With Balloon directly from Banksy or his handling service, Pest Control. Therefore, any prints of the work on the secondary market are very desirable and sought-after with collectors. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a print of Girl With Balloon, it’s important that the work comes with a Pest Control certificate of authenticity to prove it’s a genuine Banksy print.
The Banksy market appears to have survived unscathed in the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, with the value of his prints more than doubling over the last 12 months. If you’re looking to buy or sell a Banksy print in 2021, but don’t know where to start, contact our team of experts and we’d be happy to help.