Applause was first released in 2006 on canvas in the artist’s exhibition Barely Legal held in an industrial warehouse in Los Angeles, where 100 unsigned prints were released and sold for $500 apiece. The other images in the Barely Legal Box Set were, Grannies, Morons, Trolleys, Sale Ends and Festival.
Pictures on Walls, Banksy’s UK-based printer, released an additional set of 500 unsigned and 150 signed prints for sale at the exhibition. Applause was among the Barely Legal Print Set, a set of six different prints, exclusive from the other five in terms of size. The prints in the set measured approximately 76 cm x 57 cm, Applause measures 114 cm x 76 cm, and is the most detailed work in the editions, resembling a sketch as opposed to Banksy’s usual stencil art. This collection of prints is among the most rare and valuable in urban art.
The image depicts a fighter jet on the runway of a huge aircraft carrier based on a well-known source image of former American President George W. Bush deploying a military bomber. Next to the jet are two air traffic controllers wearing high-visibility 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 theatre to ask the audience to cheer. 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, where dramatic events in the world of politics and war are shown as part of an entertainment show.
Banksy, renowned for his social and political commentary through his artwork, uses the image to blame the media's trivialisation of modern warfare. The image signifies the modern media’s attempt to cheapen serious themes in the news into entertainment, suggesting the audience watching from afar are prompted to clap and celebrate on demand.
Banksy insinuates the act of war and aggression has become a form of amusement and the public have become desensitised to the true nature of violence. The artist signifies his overt dissaproval of a world in which images of aggresion are communicated 24 hours a day through television or social media. His comment is about a world where one cannot protect innocence anymore, a world for which, he seems to believe, both the media and the general public are to blame for.