The most popular artist on MyArtBroker in 2016, street artist, activist, social commentator, filmmaker, Banksy continues to intrigue, delight and accrue collectors around the globe. Expertly combining political commentary with satire and dark humour, the anonymous street artist is widely considered one of the most influential artists alive today. The market for buying and selling art by Banksy continues to grow, with pieces regularly exceeding auction estimates.
Here’s the first instalment of the A-Z of Banksy; the who, what, when, where and how of Banksy’s best known pieces.
Banksy’s original artwork Applause shows two stencil, photo-real air traffic controllers in front of a black and white photo of a warplane about to take of from a vast aircraft carrier.
The infamous (and anonymous) Street Artist is renowned for his social and political commentary via his artworks, and Applause is no different: commenting on the media’s glamourisation of modern warfare – their attempt to turn war into entertainment; as art imitates life, imitates art.
This limited edition screen print is largely monochromatic, save for the yellow of the high-visibility vests war by the air traffic controlers and the red of their sign that reads ‘Applause’, insinuating the viewers watching the warplane’s takeoff at home should clap and celebrate as if it were the cue for the start of a game show.
Barcode is an original screen print, the monochromatic artwork in his iconic stencil-style depicts a leopard in the foreground prowling away from a cage that’s had its bars pushed open.
Since Banksy’s beginnings in graffiti and Street Art he has been admired for his social commentary. In Barcode, the cage that the leopard has broken free from is plastered with an UPC code/number, making the bars on the cage look like a barcode. Here what Banksy is highlighting here with his spray paint style is the commercialization of animals for human pleasure – the most notable example being the zoo. Banksy often employs a monochromatic palette to emphasize his powerful messages.
Because I’m Worthless (Placard Rat)
Because I’m Worthless original silkscreen print is part of the three Banksy Placard Rat prints released in 2004, alongside Get Out While You Can and Welcome To Hell.
The largely monochromatic piece of wall art details stenciled rat wearing a necklace with a peace sign, holding a placard that drips in red graffiti lettering reading, ‘Because I’m Worthless’. At first glance, this appears merely verbalizing a social connotation with vermin and worthlessness; but Banksy’s artworks often have multiple meanings, and in this case it is play on the L’Oreal tagline ‘Because I’m Worth it.’
This piece of street art originally appeared on the streets of London, as did another variation of a rat holding paint roller brush dripping in fluorescent pink ink, with which he has daubed the graffiti lettering the same message.
Bomb Hugger (Bomb Love)
This original print features a girl with a ponytail stenciled in black and white hugging a bomb (the type seen dropped from military aircraft) like one might a teddy bear. The background is a block fluorescent pink to exaggerate the figure in the foreground (a technique often employed by fellow Street Artist, Stik).
This artwork is highlighting modern society’s affection for warfare, with bombs that the governments manufacture like toys – both equally likely to find a child. Banksy thus challenges the press and politicians who portray warfare in a positive light by suggesting it is right course of action to promote freedom, democracy, and peace. It could equally be said that Banksy also suggests that the forces of love and peace may overwhelm the forces of evil and hatred and ultimately triumph in this artowrk.
The image (or one very similar) first appeared as a mural in East London around 2003.
Bomb Middle England
This original Banksy artwork depicts a very quaint English setting of some elderly ladies playing boules on a strip of green grass (the only aspect of colour in this silkscreen print), but instead of boules, there are rolling cannonballs with their fuses lit.
The art piece can be seen either as how the old, elites carelessly throw bombs from the safety of their lives in Middle England. Or rather, that the pensioners – wearing hats reminiscent of soldiers helmets – are literally bombing Middle England. It is worth noting that ‘bombing’ is a term often used in Street Art for quickly completed graffiti.
This piece of wall art was original spray-painted on the streets of Bristol. And an original canvas was made with the image spray-painted and acrylic on some wooden board.
Cans Festival Special
This full-colour original giclee – rather than silkscreen — Banksy painting demonstrates a cow-girl riding a can of spay paint, complete with saddle as if it were a horse. The style of women is similar to that of Mel Ramos who frequently used hyper-sexualised women in his artwork to demonstrate the objectification of them in commercial culture in his art.
The Cans Festival Special Banksy print is a real rarity, as it never went on general sale. Instead, it was a gift piece to artists and others involved with 2008’s Cans Festival at Leake Street. These pieces of wall art were all signed by Banksy, weren’t numbered, and each one has a dedication in the form of the name of the recipient.
A variation of which was used in the 2008 poster for the Cans Festival, which Banksy put on.
Christ with Shopping Bags
This artwork is one of Banksy’s most famous, and controversial. It shows a black and white stenciled Jesus, hanging as if from the cross, but from his hands drip shopping bags (from which leaks the only colour in the image – a fluorescent pink reminiscent of blood).
This image shows the superficiality and hypocrisy of the modern celebration of Christmas, which is no longer a celebration of Christ and the whole ‘dying for our sins,’ but rather a celebration of consumer culture and Boxing Day bargains. If one reads deeper: the products, which appear to leak and drip like blood from the bags, are often made in conditions approaching, or certified as, slave labor. And the candy cane and Mickey Mouse icons of the Americanisation of Christmas. The melting of the objects can also be seen to represent the fleeting pleasure they bring.
This original, limited edition print was created in 2004 and the background is block gray.
This largely monochromatic, limited edition silkscreen print by Banksy was originally painted on a wall very close to the Houses of Parliament in London, England.
The artwork shows two soldiers, stencil-sprayed crouching on the ground, watching their backs. One is holding a machine gun, the other a paintbrush with which he is in the process of painting a red piece sign (the use of largely monochromatic works with splashes of primary colours also employed by activist and Street Artist Shepard Fairey).
It has been suggested this mural was originally created as an anti-war protest – representing the repression of the free speech. The mural was created shortly after the UKs involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, and demonstrates the fact millions, including soldiers, protested against the invasion but were not listened to.
Prints were released in 2005, and the piece was recreated and displayed in a collection at the Tate Britain gallery in 2007.