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Girl And Balloon, 2003


Girl and Balloon, 2003
Edition: 25
Stencil spray-paint on canvas
40×40 cm (16×16 inches)
Stenciled “BANKSY” in red spray paint on the turnover edge
Numbered /25 in black ink on the stretcher

Girl and Balloon, first realized in 2003, is without a doubt one of the most iconic images of the 21st century. Instantly recognizable, its enduring success lies within the ease with which it has been disseminated and reproduced online by a new, tech-savvy generation of art lovers. Despite this, its earliest renditions on the streets of London have been lost, and the present series of canvases from 2003 and the subsequent prints released the following year are the only concrete testimony to the work’s appeal.
With its striking simplicity and raw immediacy, Girl with Balloon, 2003, is one of the most widely recognizable images by the anonymous and world-renowned artist Banksy. Unlike the other editioned iterations of this famous motif, the present example belongs to a rare silkscreen edition 25 artist’s proofs. Beating Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire, Constable’s The Hay Wain and Hockney’s A Bigger Splash to the top spot, Banksy’s Girl with Balloon was voted the nation’s favorite artwork in a 2017 poll; a resounding affirmation of the broad and wide-reaching popularity of this undeniably iconic and culturally formidable image. This accolade was further compounded by the dramatic live ‘shredding’ event at Sotheby’s in October 2018 which notoriously turned a Girl with Balloon canvas into Love is in the Bin – a work that dominated headlines the world over, taking the art world by storm and has since been exhibited at the Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden and more recently at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. It’s impact on the latter’s visitor numbers was substantial, and further reinforces the power of this image and its mysterious author.
Born in Bristol and based in England, Banksy has garnered international acclaim for his distinctive style of satirical street art and graffiti, executed using a technique of stenciling. His work is rich in dark humor and frequently captioned with subversive epigrams that provide poignant and potent commentaries on the social and political aspects of contemporary society. Girl with Balloon depicts a small child rendered in black and white who reaches out towards a bright red, heart-shaped balloon dangling from a string. Like much of Banksy’s work, the image is an ambiguous one, leaving the viewer to decipher whether the girl is reaching out to catch the balloon – a vibrant emblem of childhood delight – or rather has let it slip from her fingers and is watching in anguish as it drifts into oblivion, a metaphor, perhaps, for the inevitable loss of childhood and innocence. Composed in spray paint and acrylic on canvas, the motif is based on an original graffiti mural which first appeared in London in 2002. Instantly gettable, Banksy’s graffiti image is a perfect encapsulation of human emotion for the fast-pace of our social media age: it seditiously pokes fun at high-minded art world savoir faire and in doing so appeals to many, for whom it represents a contemporary expression of sanctity, a bright and vivid symbol of hope everlasting. Ultimately, however, Girl with Balloon is the supreme icon within Banksy’s canon of motifs: whether you are for or against him, this image utterly encapsulates the immediacy and controversy surrounding the artist’s mission.

Auction Results

Girl and Balloon sold only four times at auction since 2008. It last sold at Sotheby’s London on 29 June 2021 for GBP 2,072,000 (USD 2,868,614).
Girl with Balloon, 2003
Signed in stencil on the turnover edge
Numbered 24/25 on the stretcher
Sotheby’s London, 29 June 2021
GBP 2,072,000 / USD 2,868,614
It previously sold aBonhams London on 7 March 2018 for GBP 344,750.
Girl and Balloon, 2003
Signed in stencil on the turnover edge
Numbered 17/25 on the stretcher
Bonhams London, 7 March 2018
GBP 344,750 / USD 432,574