Love Hurts Banksy
The screenprint Love Hurts, also known as Barbed Wire Heart Balloon, by British street artist Banksy is part of a collection of only 16 signed screenprints. This edition was released in 2002, during Banksy’s New York residency « Better Out Than In », for VIP friends and was never made available to the public. Chris Martin, singer of the pop band Coldplay, is rumoured to own an original Love Hurts canvas.
The imagery of the Love Hurts balloon has been used in different formats. A similar balloon was painted in the streets of Brooklyn on the occasion of the artist’s month-long New York residency but was quickly defaced by a rival graffiti artist named Omar. In 2007 the image was installed as a painting in the artist’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine, a hotel with a permanent exhibition of Banksy’s works overlooking the controversial wall. With only 16 signed prints, Love Hurts is one of the rarest Banksy editions ever produced and is thus a highly coveted piece among collectors.
Banksy’s Love Hurts is one of his more colourful and simpler works, revealing a more sensitive and sophisticated side of the artist. Over a monochromatic background painted in light blue appears a red heart-shaped Mylar balloon. It looks like it has escaped its owner and is now trapped in a barbed wire fence. Two plasters positioned in the top right in the shape of a X indicate the balloon is wounded.
This artwork, which at first glance seems very simple, raises many questions. First, where does this damaged balloon come from? Was it damaged long before or from being stuck in the barbed wire fence? Finally, can love set it free?
Banksy's artwork evokes how love can damage humans and how a broken heart can keep people miserable. The artist chose to represent the human heart and emotions with a fragile Mylar balloon that can easily be pierced and deflated but that can also be strong and rise above. Through his art, the artist is telling about the power of love but is warning us about its damaging effect. On his website banksy.co.uk, Banksy explains: « [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 ».
Banksy is an artist who insisted a lot on the lack of love among people in his artwork. His mural Love is in the Air (later adapted as a screenprint) depicts a young man throwing a bunch of flowers like a Molotov cocktail and aims at spreading love. The artist also used his favourite character, rats, to deliver messages of love in the city, like in the work Love Rat.