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Overview of Banksy Originals

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Overview of Banksy Originals

 

“As soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history.
They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars”

 

It would be over-ambitious at that stage to even think being able to provide some kind of cohesive and complete panorama of what we call “Banksy Originals”. Nobody has actually attempted that before…

Maybe it is about the “secrecy” surrounding the artist and his oeuvre, maybe it is also because the artist has been extremely prolific all along his career.

For now, we will satisfy ourselves with a first preliminary draft of some of the most iconic stencils and series that Banksy has been sharing with the world. This overview will be regularly updated and completed.

For more comprehensive information, please refer to the Banksy Catalogue section.

PRELIMINARY WORKING DRAFT
PLEASE COME BACK SOON FOR A MORE COMPLETE VERSION

 

Overview of Banksy Originals

1. Bomb Love
2. Happy Chopper
3. Heavy Weaponry
4. Love Is In The Air
5. Laugh Now
6. Keep It Real
7. Re-mixed Masterworks
8. Vandalized Oils
9. Rats
10. Barcode Leopard
11. Birds
12. HMV Dog
13. Communist Leaders & Royalty
14. Innocent Kids
15. Happy Coppers
16. War Machines
17. Sculptures

 

1. Bomb Love


 

“It takes a lot of guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy  and call for things no one else believes in like peace and justice and freedom.”

 
 
Bomb Love, also known as Bomb Hugger, portrays a young girl hugging a bomb as if it were a cuddly toy. This striking stencil contrasts the innocence and purity of the smiling girl with the violence and destruction bombs create. This image also provokes anxiety as this deadly weapon she is holding might explode at any minute. This work illustrates modern society’s affection for warfare, encouraging large corporations to manufacture and sell bombs by the millions as if they were toys. Bomb Love is also a clear salute to the power of love, that can prevail over war and violence – perhaps this little girl could disarm a bomb through her loving embrace.
 
 
 
Bomb Hugger, Brighton, 2003, in Wall and Piece

 

This young girl shows no fear; in fact, her face and smile clearly demonstrate she is very comfortable hugging the bomb. Bomb Love highlights our society’s indifference and numbness to warfare, as countless bombs and weapons are manufactured everyday and either stored or sold to oppressive regimes – often under the pretense that weapons are necessary to maintain peace in the world. It also highlights the trivialization of warfare, presented as a harmless game without any consequence, just like playing with a toy.

 

Banksy also realized many original with this iconic stencil, we only reference a few below.

 

Bomb Love, 2000
Stencil spray-paint on board
58.5×58.5 cm (23 1/16 x 23 1/16 inches)
 

 

Bomb Hugger, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
43×43 cm (16 15/16 x 16 15/16 inches)
Edition: 5
Existencilism, 33 1/3 Gallery, Los Angeles, 2002
 
 
 
Bomb Love, 2002
Stencil spray-paint and acrylic on canvas
25.5×20.5 cm (10 1/16 x 8 1/16 in.)
From a series, unique in this format
Stenciled signature on the overlap
Santa’s Ghetto, Dragon Bar, London, December 2002

 

 

Bomb Hugger, 2002
Acrylic and spray enamel on canvas
30.5×30.5 cm (12×12 inches)
From a series, unique in this format

 

 

 

2. Happy Chopper


 

The Apache Helicopter is a recurring theme in Banksy‘s oeuvre. This helicopter often adorned with a pink or yellow ribbon illustrates the Iraq war for Banksy, and has been used in various anti-war protests. This conflict was the subject of considerable debate at the time, as accusations were made that coalition military action was mostly motivated by Iraq’s oil supply, and not the fight for democracy as we were led to believe.
 
 
Happy Chopper, 2002
 
 
 
Happy Chopper depicts a squadron of armed military helicopters against a bright blue sky. In stark contrast with the cartoony, fluffy clouds, the incoming choppers (American slang for helicopters) are rendered in much greater detail, in dark colors, with graphic emphasis on their heavy and imposing weaponry, evoking a sense of imminent danger. However, the lead chopper is “wearing” a baby pink bow, juxtaposing the violence of warfare with the innocence of childhood. The bow adorning the otherwise accurate representation of the fighter helicopter mocks ideas of masculinity and militarism, whilst reinforcing their inherent menace.
 
Happy Chopper first appeared in 2002 as a sprayed mural in Central London at the Whitecross Street Market.
 
 
Happy Chopper, Old Street, Shoreditch, London
 
Happy Chopper was also heavily featured during various anti-war protests throughout London, and Banksy included a picture of it in his self-published book, Cut It Out. Banksy also created originals on canvas with a few variations.
 
Study for Happy Chopper, 2003
Spray-paint on found framed oil painting
79×109.7cm (31 1/8 x 43 1/4 inches)
 
 
 
Happy Choppers, 2005
Acrylic, stencil and spray-paint on canvas
 
 
 

Happy Choppers, 2002
Acrylic and spray enamel on canvas
45.6 x 53 cm (18 x 20 7/8 inches)

 

 

3. Heavy Weaponry


 
Heavy Weaponry is one of Banksy‘s iconic visual. It depicts an elephant made in the artist’s recognizable stencil style, with a rocket strapped to its back, hence the double-entendre in the witty title. Banksy’s satirical, anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment passages cut through the mainstream culture whilst bridging the gap between the street and the traditional art space. One of the main elements of Banksy’s style is its powerful and animated visual rendering.
 
Heavy Weaponry plays a central role in Banksy’s oeuvre. By depicting an elephant carrying a missile, this strong visual translates the artist’s empathy of the elephant’s unavoidable predicament into a compelling reality. The image of the elephant bearing a rocket on its back carries various interpretations; presumably the general message is anti-military, in line with Banksy’s other works using similar imagery.
 
The first Heavy Weaponry dates 1998 and was exhibited at Severnshed in Bristol. 

 

 
 
Heavy Weaponry, 1998
Spray-paint on MDF board
50.5×52.5 cm (19 7/8 x 20 11/16 inches)
 
 
Heavy Weaponry, 2003
Spray-paint on canvas
25.4 x 30.3 cm (10×12 inches)
Edition: 25
 
Heavy Weaponry depicts a singular elephant made in Banksy’s recognizable stencil style with a rocket strapped to its back. The image of the elephant bearing a rocket on its back carries various interpretations; presumably the general message is anti-military, in line with Banksy’s other works using similar imagery.
 
 
London, New-York, Bristol (Heavy Weaponry), 2000
Spray-paint and emulsion on canvas
55×55 cm (21 5/8 x 21 5/8 inches)
Edition: 10, each is a unique variation
 
 
This version of Heavy Weaponry is filled with a variety of symbols and motifs that have recurred throughout the Bristol-born artist’s practice: an oversize barcode, his signature elephant backpacking a missile, and the names of the cities where the artist painted the most murals. The painting feels charged with a veiled anti-war sentiment, mocking the commoditization of military engagement.
 
Obviously, Banksys own heavy weaponry remains his stencil and the art of the image, and London, New York, Bristol (Heavy Weaponry) reads as much a declaration of intent for artistic intervention in these locations as a critique of militant malpractice.
 
 
 
 
Heavy Weaponry over Radar, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on cardboard
75×55cm (29 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches)
 
Heavy Weaponry over Radar is mixing two Banksy’s iconic images: Heavy Weaponry and Radar Rat. The artist spray painted an elephant with a rocket strapped to its back over the coral-red spiral seen in the background of Radar Rat. It could be perceived as an anti-military statement by the artist, formulated through this satirical, over-exaggerated image., in what seems to be a comment on the ever-increasing presence of surveillance equipment in cities such as London.
 
 
 
Heavy Weaponry (Multi-color Background), 2009
Acrylic and spray-paint stencil on board, in artist’s frame
59.4×69.8 cm (23 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches)
 
 
Protect From All Elements, 2013
Acrylic and spray enamel on board
 43.8 x 57.7 cm (17 1/4 x 22 3/4 inches)
 
 

 

 

4. Love Is In the Air


 

“If you want to say something and have people listen, then you have to wear a mask”

Flower Thrower is an expression of the themes and motifs that have defined Banksy‘s career. A politically motivated graffiti artist plying his trade on the streets of Bristol, Banksy made a name for himself with a strong anti-establishment message delivered through dark and humorous imagery. Increasingly popular and increasingly serious, Banksy has brought street art into the gallery space, delivering the art form to a new audience.
 
 
 
 
 
Soon after his first solo exhibition at the Los Angeles based 33 1/3 Gallery in 2002, Banksy created the ”Love is in the Air” stencil; it has since become one of his most recognizable icons.
 
Originally spray painted on a wall off London’s Rivington Street, circa 2003, Banksy has reworked the stencil on a regular basis throughout his career. The image of a masked figure throwing a bouquet of flowers is thought to symbolize the action needed to bring about change; as Banksy has remarked, “If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask”.
 
 
 
Love is in the Air depicts a masked man, dressed as a militant, who is about to throw a bouquet of flowers with mercurial vigor. Typical of Banksy’s socially charged imagery, Love is in the Air demonstrates the artist’s sustained interest in the absurdity of war, as well as the arbitrariness that can derive from unequal power dynamics. Indeed, while the spray-painted protagonist is armed with blooming plants and nothing else, the forces surrounding him seem to operate from heavier weaponry, placing him in a position of immediate danger.
 
 
 
Existing as part of a larger body of work commonly referred to as Love is in the Air or Flower Thrower or LIITA, the present work was executed in 2003, shortly after Banksy had produced the image’s first iteration as a large format stenciled graffiti in Jerusalem, which itself closely followed the erection of the West Bank Wall. Today, Love is in the Air is recognized as one of Banksy’s most iconic and most sought-after artworks, existing not only in the realm of fine arts but also as the graphically powerful subject of numerous commodified goods, including posters, phone covers, t-shirts and other types of merchandise all over the world.
 
Rage, Flower Thrower, Beit Sahour. Image: Alamy Stock Photo.
 
Reminiscent of late-1960s images of students protesting the Vietnam War, Love is in the Air shows the figure of a young man leaning back with an arm stretched outwards, as if winding up to throw something aggressively. Yet, instead of being seized in an act of violence that one would assume involves a bomb or a grenade, Banksy’s subject carries a symbol for peace and beauty — a bouquet of flowers. Extracted from a presumably chaotic and violent context and standing alone, poetically resilient in a sea of nothingness, the man is disconcertingly removed from the situation of unrest that his movements and attire suggest. With its riotous imagery, Love is in the Air is namely redolent of Andy Warhol’s Riots series, similarly focusing on the time-lapse of violence — the pause and silence that separates a violent act from its fatal consequence. Equally, the picture’s paradoxical sense of quietude evokes Cady Noland’s striking sculptural manifestations of punctured silhouettes, which, despite indicating inherent violence, exude the similar sentiment of a deadly occurrence’s eerie aftermath. Her human silhouettes, often hoisting to the viewer’s size, suggest both the life and death of their bodies, just as Love is in the Air’s character is at once alive and inevitably obsolete, powerless against the force of the central orange target.
 
Andy Warhol, Race Riot, 1964, silkscreened ink and synthetic polymer on canvas
Image: Bridgeman Images.
 
 
Back in the day Banksy was based at the Wall of Sound record label’s studio in West London for a while. He made a bunch of sleeve artwork in return, including this in 2000 for the cover of Wall of Sound’s admittedly rather good indie dance spin-off imprint. Here’s the promotional poster for the LP featuring Love is in the Air’s seminal ‘Flower Thrower’ graphic. A bit of a jewel.
 
 
We Love You… So Love Us, 2000
Vintage Poster, 60×45 cm
 
 
 
 
 
Love Is In The Air, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
43×51 cm (16 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches)
Edition: 5
 
Love Is In The Air, 2003
Spray-paint on cardboard
68 x 67.5 cm (26 3/4 x 26 5/8 inches)
 
Flower Chucker, 2003
Spray-paint on cardboard
56 x 54.5 cm (26 3/4 x 26 5/8 inches)
 
 
Love Is In The Air, 2005
Spray-paint and oil on canvas
90×90 cm (35 3/8 x 36 3/8 inches)
 
 
 
 
Flower Thrower, 2010
Spray-paint on canvas
84.5x84.5 cm (33 1/3 x 33 1/3 inches)
From a series, unique in this format

 

 

5. Laugh Now


 

Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge

 
Laugh Now features a slump-shouldered, forlorn-looking monkey wearing a sandwich board bearing the foreboding pledge “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”. Though a seemingly comic image at first glance, the social critique behind this image quickly becomes apparent. The chimpanzee is one of Banksy’s most frequently used motifs, alongside the rat, often paired with signage imparting pithy remarks that provide pejorative commentaries on a range of socio-political aspects of contemporary life. These animals often serve a didactic role in Banksy’s works, and the monkey in Laugh Now is no exception.
 
 
 
The chimpanzee first appeared in Banksy’s oeuvre in 2002 when the artist was commissioned by a nightclub in Brighton to create a six-meter long spray-painted mural of the figure repeated ten times, making it unusual for the artist whose works are usually created foremost for public spaces. It was from this work that subsequent versions of Laugh Now were created. Consequently, it has become one of Banksy’s most iconic and widely disseminated images, making headlines in 2008 when the original artwork successfully sold at auction, breaking the record for the artist at the time.
 
 
Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge, 2000
Acrylic and stencil spray-paint on canvas
61×61 cm (24×24 inches)
 
 
The monkey also illustrates the arrogance of mankind. Since Charles Darwin’s development of his theory of evolution in the mid-nineteenth century, which asserted that humans evolved from apes, humans have set out to distance themselves from their primate ancestors by dismissing them as stupid, aggressive, or deviously clever. Similarly, graffiti art has been ridiculed as naïve and uneducated, but Banksy upholds that it is the most powerful and efficient means of artistic expression today and has been quoted saying
In this light, Laugh Now can be understood as a representation of the working class, exploited and enslaved by capitalism, who take to the streets to spread their message. Seeking to interfere and disrupt the status-quo through his defiant and anti-establishmentarian practice.
 
 
 
 
Laugh Now, 1998
Spray-paint stencil and acrylic on board
61×73.5 cm (24 x 28 1/2 inches)
 

Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge, 2002
Spray-paint and emulsion on paperboard
76×102 cm (30 x 41 1/8 inches)

Laugh Now, 2002
Spray-paint on canvas
30.5 x 30.5 cm (12×12 inches)

Laugh Now, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on board
91×64 cm (35 13/16 x 25 3/16 inches)

 

6. Keep It Real


 
 
 
Keep It Real features one of Banksy‘s most iconic and popular images, the chimpanzee appearing here in one of its many incarnations as the loveable underdog with a sandwich board, underestimated and yet subversive, with the power to illicit social transformation.
 
Keep It Real, 2001
Acrylic and spray-paint stencil on canvas
25.5 x 20.2 cm (10×8 inches)
 
 
Standing upright like a human being with their signature look of slouched shoulders and downturned eyes, Banksy‘s monkeys often popped up overnight on streets, walls and bridges of cities throughout the world. The text written on their boards are often times political and social commentary coming from the artist. As with a large number of the artist’s recurring stencils this image has appeared at auction on many occasions in many media.
 
 
Keep it Real, 2002
Acrylic and stencil spray-paint on canvas
20.2 x 20.2 cm (8×8 inches)
 
 
 

 

7. Re-Mixed Masterworks


 
 
In one of Banksy’s first exhibits in London, entitled Crude Oils, held in Westbourne Grove in October 2005. Banksy exhibited a series of 20 classical oil paintings, including some re-mixes of iconic artworks from art history from van Gogh, Monet, Hopper, or Warhol.
 
Show Me The Monet (after Claude Monet)
Oil on canvas in artist’s frame
143.1 x 143.4 cm (56 3/8 x 56 1/2 inches)
 
 
Show me the Monet was displayed at the street-facing end of the shop-turned-gallery. On prominent view to those passing on the street, this painting set the tone for the exhibition, an event that some 15 years later is now recognized as a milestone in the artist’s career. 
 
 
Sun Flowers from Petrol Station (after van Gogh)
Oil on canvas in artist’s frame
76.5 x 61 cm (29 7/8  x 24 inches)
 
Show Me the Monet joined three other fully painted “remixes” of canonical works of art. Installed along the same wall and across the back of the gallery space, Banksy’s re-imagined Monet accompanied a wilted, bloomless version of van Gogh’s Sunflowers; and a take on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks in which a topless Union Jack boxer-wearing man has smashed the late-night bar’s glass window.
 
Tesco Value Soup Can (after Andy Warhol)
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 91.5 cm (48×36 inches)
 
 
Are You Using That Chair (after Edward Hopper)
 
 
Jack Vettriano’s popular Singing Butler featuring a sinking oil liner and two men in hazmat suits wheeling a barrel of toxic waste. 
 
 
Toxic Beach (after Jack Vettriano)
 
Banksy would regularly re-mix some of the most iconic masterworks and show-case them within his various exhibits, notably at Banksy vs. Bristol Museum, in 2009.
 
After Millet’s The Gleaners
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

8. Vandalized Oils


 

 

 

Landscape with Incident Sign

 

Landscape with Congestion Sign

 

Graffiti Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Rats


 
Rats are one of Banksy’s favorite subjects for many reasons explained at length in other parts of Banksy Explained.
Interestingly, even though the artist created an extensive number of murals dedicated to rats, one will realize that Banksy did not create that many originals featuring his favorite animal. On the reverse, monkeys have not been extensively used as subjects for murals, whereas Banksy created a gigantic number of originals based on his Laugh Now or Keep It Real stencils.

Radar Rat, 2002
Spray-paint on cardboard
50.2 x 37.5 cm (19 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches)

 

Radar Rat, 2002
Stencil and free-hand spray-paint on canvas
25.5 x 25.5 cm (10×10 inches)

 

Paparazzi Rat, 2004
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
40×40 cm (15 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches)

Security Protected, 2004
Enamel and paper collage on foam card
59.3 x 84.2 cm (23 3/8 x 33 1/8 inches)

Rat and Sword, 2005
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
30.5 x 25.5 cm (12×10 inches)

 

Rat with 3D Glasses

 

10. Barcode Leopard


 

Barcode Leopard is another iconic stencil Banksy created in the early 2000’s. A majestic leopard is gently walking towards the viewer, after having escaped from his cage. This cage is no other than a giant barcode on wheels. It serves as a symbol of consumerism and capitalism, from which the animal has managed to escape.
 
 
This striking stencil first appeared in Bristol on the side of a house on Pembroke Road.
 
Leopard and Barcode, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
43×51 cm (16 15/16 x 20 1/16 inches)
 
 
Barcode Leopard, 2002
Spray-paint and acrylic on canvas
84 x 91.5 cm (33×36 inches)
 
 
Barcode Leopard, 2002
Spray-paint and emulsion on canvas
64.8 x 81.3 (25 1/2 x 32 inches)
 
Barcode Leopard, 2002
Stencil spray-paint and emulsion on canvas
70×70 cm (27 9/16 x 27 9/16 inches)
 

11. Birds


 

 

Bird and Grenade, 2002
Oil and spray enamel on found canvas
68.5 x 99 cm (27×39 inches)
 
 
Woodland Creature, 2001
Acrylic and spray-paint on canvas
61×50.8 cm (24×20 inches)
 
 
 

Corrosive Bird, 2001
Stencil spray-paint and acrylic on canvas
76×76 cm (30×30 inches)

 

 

12. HMV Dog


 

 

HMV Dog, 2002
Oil and spray-paint stencil on board
50.5 x 73.5 cm (19 7/8 x 29 inches)

 

 

 

 

13. Communist Leaders & Royalty


 

Political leaders, whether communists or not, are also one of Banksy’s favorite targets. Che Guevara and Lenin often appear on skates, for yet another striking juxtaposition of leisure and playfulness together with the violence of the Marxist revolutionary leaders…

Che Guevara on Skates, 2000
Spray-paint and emulsion on canvas
76.5 x 76.5 cm (30 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches)

 

Lenin on Skates, 2002
Acrylic and spray-paint on canvas
60.9 x 35.5 cm (24×14 inches)

 

Lenin in Sight

 

Queen Victoria, 2002
Oil on canvas in artist’s frame
91.5 x 91.5 cm (36×36 inches)

 

Monkey Queen, 2003
Oil and emulsion on canvas
92×92 cm (36 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches)

 

 

14. Innocent Kids


 

Banksy has been using the fragility and innocence of the childhood to convey strong messages to the viewer. Indeed, when the artist portrays a young girl with an ice cream bomb, or a young boy with a gas mask, one cannot stay indifferent.

 

Gas Mask Boy, 2009
Spray-paint and oil on wood
92.5 x 72 cm (36 3/8 x 36 3/8 inches)

 

Girl with Ice Cream on Palette, 2004
Spray-paint and emulsion on wood
59.7 x 50 cm (23 1/2 x 19 11/16 inches)

 

 

Go Flock Yourself, 2009
Spray-paint and emulsion on metal
91.4 x 91.4 cm (36×36 inches)

 

 

 

15. Happy Coppers


 

 

 

16. Sculptures


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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sebastien laboureau

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