Flying Copper Banksy
Flying Copper is an early iconic image from Banksy’s catalogue. The image depicts a heavily armed British police officer with angel wings and a yellow smiley face. Flying Copper screenprints were released in 2003 in two different colours. The pink edition includes 63 signed prints. The blue edition is composed by 150 signed and 600 Flying Copper unsigned prints and a variant was released with a pink smiley face.
The work appeared under giant cut-out paintings suspended on cardboard from the ceiling at Turf War, Banksy’s first major exhibition in a warehouse in London’s East End in 2003. The cut-outs were then spotted on the streets of Vienna, and London, where the stencil appeared with a distinct red Banksy tag through the middle of it, whilst Shoreditch Bridge also housed a row of Flying Coppers, but unfortunately part of this installation was stolen, and featured in a 2012 documentary: ‘How to sell a Banksy’.
On a mono-coloured background, sky blue or pink depending on the edition, Flying Copper depicts a strange and paradoxical character: the policeman, fully equipped with machine-gun, helmet, walkie-talkie and handcuffs, but with a striking yellow smiley face and a pair of small angel-like wings. The smiley is both a nod to 1990s acid house culture and childhood, depending on the interpretation.
Banksy’s artwork, like most of his creations, is based on the appropriation of pop culture and contrasts. There is a clear satirical disparity between the happiness and simplicity of the smiley, and the policeman’s armour. The smiley face and the angel wings are angelic, whereas his equipment evoke oppression and threat. Flying Copper underlines a theme consistent in the artist’s work – scepticism towards figures of authority and power, a subject also dealt with in Banksy’s Love is in the Air, Monkey Queen or Turf War.