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Love Is In The Air, 2006



Love Is In The Air, 2006
Oil and spray-paint on canvas
90×90 cm (35 3/8 x 36 3/8 inches)
Edition: 15
Tagged on the turnover edge
Signed, dated and numbered (on the overlap)

One of Banksy’s most iconic and immediately recognizable images, Love is in the Air encapsulates the decisive social commentator and wry humor that typify the artist’s provocative and highly acclaimed oeuvre. In its original guerrilla iteration in Beit Sahour near the West Bank Barrier, Love is in the Air testifies to Banksy’s unique ability to activate urban environments and public architecture in a way that supercharges his message, lending his images a searing immediacy which extends far beyond all those who live in or visit the region, juxtaposing the active gesture of protest with the reconciliatory symbol of a Flower Bouquet.

This anti-war sentiment is compounded by the work’s visual echoes of the flower power movement and the student protests which took place in France and American in the 60’s. The youthful subject throwing flowers as his weapon reminds us of the famous 1967 photograph of a young protester placing a flower in the barrel of a rifle pointed at his head during an anti-war demonstration. With this now-iconic image, Banksy offers us a universal message: that we must harness the virtues of peace in order to overcome the division and conflict that surround us and look ahead to a hopeful future.


This edition features a bouquet of flowers hand painted in oils by the artist, a unique feature rarely seen in Banksy’s oeuvre. The incorporation of these richly painted flowers brings to mind the long tradition of floral still life paintings; yet in typical Banksy fashion, these vivid blooms are a far cry from the somber beauty of a 17th century Dutch floral arrangement, or indeed the symbolic incorporation of flowers by Medieval, Renaissance and Victorian artists, but rather appear as if they may have been snatched from a local gas station to be hurled at an unseen enemy. Banksy understands his lineage as a social commentator and satirist and – much like Honoré Daumier and William Hogarth before him – uses the power of familiar symbols juxtaposed with incompatible references to create absurd and provocative images which convey potent political messages. His tongue-in-cheek tone is reflected the fact the work shares a title with a crooning 1978 John Paul Young hit. While humorously incongruous with the subject matter of the work, this double entendre gives the painting a sense of vitality, preempting the moment the flowers, symbolizing love, are flung forward by the subject.


The oil painted flowers act as a tender counterpoint to the crispness of the stenciled figure, reminding us of the artist’s hand in the quasi-mechanized process of creating stenciled images. Whilst in many ways a revolutionary figure, Banksy’s decision to include this hand-finished detail as part of the stenciled piece serves as a nod to his artistic forebears, recalling Warhol’s use of stencils combined with a fluid application of color to subvert totemic – and often, highly political—images from popular culture. This is exemplified by Warhol’s portraits of Chairman Mao, in which he uses technicolor inks to playfully transform Mao’s carefully controlled likeness, often with the effect of making it appear as though the imposing leader is wearing garish makeup. Similarly, Banksy uses the colorful bouquet of flowers to create an image of violence disarmed, disrupting the stark image of a young militant caught in an act of violence by replacing his Molotov cocktail with a symbol of peace.

Banksy is well known for his distinctive use of stenciling, a technique he started using widely in the late 1990s in order to create complex graffiti works very rapidly in public spaces. The use of stenciling allowed the artist to reduce the window in which he risked being caught ‘vandalizing’ by the police, but without compromising the intricacy of the images. Banksy’s choice of stenciling as a technique has significance beyond pragmatic considerations: the practice has long been associated with underground political movements and punk culture, as it enables people to create visually striking images that can be reproduced quickly, cheaply and by anyone. These characteristics lend the technique to grassroots activism and speak to the DIY, anti-establishment, traditions of punk.



Widely reproduced—notably on the cover of his 2005 monograph Wall and Piece—Banksy’s original Love is in the Air mural was first painted in Beit Sahour, a town in Palestine just east of Bethlehem. The West Bank barrier wall and the surrounding area has since become a site of continued activism for the artist: multiple instances of his work pepper the region, including his 2005 mural Balloon Debate, depicting a small girl being carried over the wall by a bunch of balloons. In 2017, Banksy designed the infamous Walled Off Hotel opposite the barrier—billed as having ‘the worst view of any hotel in the world’—in a bid to amplify tourist awareness of the region’s ongoing unrest. Within this network of creations, however, Beit Sahour remains a site of particular significance: in Christian tradition, it is said to be the location at which the Annunciation to the shepherds took place, alerting them to the birth of Jesus. Interestingly, the pose of Banksy’s protagonist recalls that of the angel statue outside the town’s Shepherds’ Fields Chapel—whose arm similarly points into the distance—enhancing the work’s sense of hopeful prophecy.



Banksy’s circle of stars, curiously redolent of the Paramount Pictures logo, may also be seen to play into the image’s message of support. Used in a number of works during his early practice, the motif recalls the symbolic crown of stars that is frequently depicted above the Virgin Mary’s head, representing the twelve Seraphim Angels assigned to protect her. This strand of iconography would later be co-opted by Arsène Heitz, one of the designers of the European flag, who proposed a similar ring of yellow stars as a symbol of unity and harmony—ironically, Banksy himself would riff upon the latter in his anti-Brexit mural of 2017. Such associations are further enhanced by the motif of the bunch of flowers, which—in taking the place of a bomb, brick or other instrument of assault—evokes the sentiment of the Flower Power movement and the associated anti-war demonstrations in America during the 1960s. Images from the time show protestors offering flowers to military police, and—in a landmark Pulitzer Prize-nominated photograph of 1967—placing carnations inside their rifle barrels.

In its oscillation between imagery of rebellion and peace, the work speaks directly to Banksy’s own mission as a graffiti artist. From his early days tagging the streets of his native Bristol, to his subsequent projects at sites around the world, he has viewed the medium as a means of non-violent disruption: a vehicle for social and political critique that ultimately returns art to the people. His images live within the world, reflecting its struggles and triumphs; liable to be erased at any moment, they are as fleeting and elusive as the artist himself. Banksy’s signature use of hand-cut stencils—a technique first inspired by observing the lettering on the underside of a rubbish truck while hiding from the police—is part and parcel of this notion, infusing his works with a bold, anarchic edge. Yet for all its apparent lawlessness, Banksy’s approach is ultimately one of outreach: like flowers hurled into a warzone, his works represent beacons of hope for those whose lives they reflect. With his face partially concealed by a mask, the present work’s protagonist might be read as an extension of the artist himself: an anonymous insurrectionary, throwing tokens of comfort, surprise and solidarity into the void.


Auction Results


Love Is In The Air, 2006
Oil and spray-paint on canvas
90×90 cm (35 3/8 x 36 3/8 inches)
Edition: 15
Tagged on the turnover edge
Signed Banksy, dated May 2006 and numbered (on the overlap)
Sotheby’s New-York: 18 November 2021
USD 8,077,200

Love Is In the Air, 2006
Stencil spray-paint and oil on canvas
91×91 cm (35 13/16 x 35 13/16 inches)
Signed, dated 24/4/2006 and inscribed AP 16/15 on the reverse
Stencil signature to the overlap
Bonhams London: 27 June 2013
GBP 163,250 / USD 224,708