Love Hurts Banksy
Banksy’s Love Hurts, also known as Barbed Wire Heart Balloon, belongs to a prestigious collection of just 16 signed screen prints. This edition was released in 2002, during Banksy’s New York residency Better Out Than In, exclusively for VIP friends and was never made available to the public. Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, is rumoured to own an original Love Hurts canvas.
The visual motif of the Love Hurts balloon has been reworked in several different formats. 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 that overlooks the wall separating it from Israel. A similar balloon was also painted on the streets of Brooklyn during his New York residency, before it was defaced by rival graffiti artist Omar. With so few signed prints, Love Hurts is one of the rarest Banksy editions ever produced, making it a highly coveted piece among collectors.
Love Hurts is colourful, sophisticated and deceptively simple in its composition, depicting a red heart-shaped Mylar balloon 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 within 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 Hurts, as suggested by its very title, evokes the damaging power of love to inflict hurt and anguish. The fragility and vulnerability of human emotion is represented in the allegory of the Mylar balloon, which can be easily pierced and deflated. Conversely, the balloon also possesses the innate desire to break free and rise above its constraints. Whilst at first glance the work appears straightforward, it in fact carries a poignant message. A double edged sword, Banksy demonstrates both the power of love as well as its agonising ability to cause pain and suffering.
Love, or the lack of it, is a theme that has preoccupied Banksy throughout his career. His mural Love is in the Air (later adapted as a screen print) depicts a young man throwing a bunch of flowers like a grenade, meant to signify the act of spreading love. The iconic work Love Rat was also intended to publicly deliver a message of love in the city.