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Flying, Smiling and Happy Copper, 2003


Flying Copper, 2003
Acrylic and spray-paint stencil on cardboard, double-sided
200×123 cm (80 3/4 x 48 3/8 inches)
From a series

Turf War, London, 2003
Banksy: The Unauthorized Retrospective, S/2 London, curated by Steve Lazarides, 2014

Flying Happy Copper, 2003
Acrylic and spray-paint stencil on cardboard, double-sided
205×124 cm (80 3/4 x 48 3/4 inches)
From a series
Sotheby’s London: 2 July 2008
GBP 39,650
Turf War, London, 2003
Smiling Copper, 2003
Spray-paint and acrylic on cardboard
200×78 cm (78 3/4 x 30 3/4 inches)
From a series, unknown edition
Sotheby’s London: 11 April 2018
GBP 137,500

Vienna, WUK Kunsthalle Exnegrasse. Bad Press. June – July 2003


Happy Copper, 2003
Spray-paint on wooden panel in three parts
187×112 cm (73 1/2 x 44 inches)
Sotheby’s London: 12 December 2017
GBP 84,500

This work was executed in 2003 on a stall at the Viennese Naschmarkt

‘The Greatest Crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules.’

Flying Copper shows a heavily armed police officer portrayed with small angel wings on his back. The policeman has a striking yellow smiley face which evokes of 1990s acid house culture but also a simply drawn popular and childlike design. The symbolism of the smiling face juxtaposed with assault rifle and armor shows a striking image of oppression and threat hiding behind a friendly face. Flying Copper explores the line between “peace-keeper” and “militant forces,” reminding the viewer to be skeptical of those with too much authority or power.



Flying Copper first appeared under a number of giant cut-out paintings suspended on cardboard from the ceiling at Turf War, Banksy’s first major exhibition in a warehouse in East London in 2003. The cut-outs were later spotted on the streets of Vienna and London, where the stencil appeared with a distinct red Banksy tag through the middle of it. Shoreditch Bridge also featured a row of Flying Coppers at some point.


 Banksy, Cut It Out, December 2004

Flying Copper is one of Banksy’s earliest and most iconic images. As such, it is well known all around the world. Indeed, this visual is the perfect example of Banksy’s style featuring contrasting aesthetics: photo-realistic stencils combined with graphic features. Combining those features results in a striking visual that sticks in the mind of the viewer. The juxtaposition of opposing concepts compels the audience to reconcile the fact that the “smiley face” (happiness), on an individual outfitted with riot gear (fear and intimidation) are perhaps not as contradictory as we might naturally think.


Banksy combines them into one singular image to question the role the police state truly plays and how “perception vs reality” are oftentimes very different. The little angel wings on the policeman’s back accentuate an amusing juxtaposition between morality, truth, military control and intimidation.

Flying Copper, 2003
Screen-print in colors on wove paper
Editions: 150 signed, 600 unsigned