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Flying Copper, 2003


Flying Copper, 2003
Editions: 150 signed, 600 unsigned

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

Flying Copper shows an armed police officer. The policeman has a striking yellow smiley face which evokes of 1990s acid house culture but also a simply-drawn popular and childlike design, together with angel wings attached to his back. 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.


One of his favorite subjects, Banksy realized many originals around the concept of an heavily armed police officer with a smiley face…
Riot Copper, 2002
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
30.5×30.5 cm (12×12 inches)
Flying Copper, 2003
Acrylic and spray-paint stencil on cardboard, double sided
200×133 cm (80 3/4 x 48 3/8 inches)
From a series

Smiling Copper, 2003
Spray-paint and acrylic on cardboard
200×78 cm (78 3/4 x 30 3/4 inches)
From a series


Flying Copper

Year: 2003
Medium: Screen-print in colors on wove paper
Size: 100×70 cm (39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches)
Publisher: Pictures on Walls


Signed Edition: 150
Unsigned Edition: 600
Artist’s Proofs Editions
Pink AP: 63 signed AP
Pink Face AP: 8 signed AP



Flying Copper (Pink AP), 2003
Edition: 63 signed AP
Flying Copper (Pink Face AP), 2003
Edition: 8 signed AP




Updated as of 10 March 2023


1. Flying Copper (unsigned)


Flying Copper (unsigned), 2004
Numbered 512/600 in pencil with the publisher’s blindstamp, lower left
Sotheby’s online: 17 August 2022
Estimated: GBP 20,000 – 30,000
GBP 44,100 / USD 52,920

Flying Copper (unsigned), 2003
Numbered 106/600 in pencil, lower right
Sotheby’s online: 26 April 2022

GBP 32,760 / USD 41,278

Flying Copper (unsigned), 2003
Numbered 467/600 in pencil with the publisher’s blindstamp, lower right
Christie’s online: 15 March 2022

GBP 37,800 / USD 49,896

Flying Copper (unsigned), 2003
Numbered 353/600 in pencil with the publisher’s blindstamp, lower right
Bonhams London: 22 September 2021

GBP 31,500 / USD 43,785

Flying Copper (unsigned), 2003
Numbered 398/600 in pencil with the publisher’s blindstamp, lower right
Sotheby’s online: 18 March 2021
GBP 63,000 / USD 87,570

2. Flying Copper (signed)


Flying Copper (signed), 2003
Signed and dated in pencil, lower right
Numbered /150 in pencil with the publisher’s blindstamp
Forum Auctions: 5 March 2021
GBP 113.900 / USD 158,321