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Trolley Hunters, 2006


Trolley Hunters, 2006
Oil and emulsion on canvas
137×214 cm (53 7/8 x 84 1/4 inches)
Tagged, lower right
Signed and dated ‘1 Aug 2006’ on the overlap
Sotheby’s New-York: 18 November 2021
USD 6,698,400


Barely Legal, Los Angeles, 2006
Banksy: The unauthorized retrospective, S/2 London, curated by Steve Lazarides, 2014

Source: Sotheby’s


“We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves.”

Iconic, instantly recognizable, and caustically humorous, the work of legendary street artist Banksy continues to shock and satirize today. Featured in Barely Legal, Banksy’s seminal 2006 exhibition in Los Angeles that triggered widespread acclaim and recognition for the artist, Trolley Hunters is the perfect incarnation of Banksy’s distinctive marriage of street art, graffiti and satire. Featuring three prehistoric men in a desert, the atmosphere of Trolley Hunters is both eerie and lighthearted, its illustrative style belying the acerbic humor and depth of meaning of the painting. Holding various weapons, the three men pictured are poised to attack. The targets of their attack are, in typical Banksy fashion, trolleys – or shopping carts. The poignancy of the resulting work is twofold, firstly in its timeless critique of capitalism, and secondly in its unique and unexpected resonance today.


The trolley, comic in its incongruity, nods to our consumer society’s predilection for, and reliance on, highly processed, branded packaged food products, and our inability to fend for ourselves. Grouped like antelope in a field, the barren nature of the landscape in which we find these alien carts nods to our willingness to ship foods and other commodities all over the planet to be picked up whenever convenient by the consumer in the aisles of big chain supermarkets. With sardonic wit, Banksy juxtaposes his trolleys with a trio of Neanderthal hunter-gatherers, thereby shining a critical light on how far we as human beings have deviated from our base instincts, and abilities.


From political cartoons to Duchampian sculptures, satire has long pervaded art and its history, and Banksy is the preeminent contemporary successor to this tradition, having earned a cult following for his subversive stenciled street pieces. Operating now both in- and out-side of the establishment, Banksy’s works exist on the boundary, courting mass appeal whilst commenting vociferously on potentially marginalizing political and cultural issues. Beyond its satirical antecedents however, the present work recalls works such as Gustave Courbet’s The Stone Breakers (1849), the paradigm shifting Realist work that demonstrated the plight of rural laborers in Nineteenth Century France, whose existence would have felt prehistoric to the Parisians who would have seen Courbet’s painting. Banksy toys with the shock of association, the equivalence afforded to the caveman and the viewer, whilst drawing attention to our distance from the land that sustains us.

© BANKSY 2021

On this approach, author James Brassett has noted: “Central to Banksy’s work is an attempt to re-frame global issues through the use of irony, and ironic inversion. His work interrupts mainstream narratives of global ethics, of an unfair world that needs reform, by juxtaposing familiar icons of western capitalism (for example Disney, Ronald McDonald) with icons of western imperialism (for example bombed villagers in Vietnam)… Banksy may not provide ready solutions to some of the problems he identifies, but he certainly provides credible pointers as to the kinds of power structures and hypocrisy that global ethical agendas must contend with.” (James Brassett, “British Irony, Global Justice: A Pragmatic Reading of Chris Brown, Banksy and Ricky Gervais,” Review of International Studies, Vol. 35, No. 1, January 2009, pp. 232-33).

Many of Banksy’s best images are uncannily prescient. Devolved Parliament pre-empted the disintegration of trusted political systems in the mid-2010s, Show Me The Monet anticipated concerns regarding climate change and our treatment of the planet, and although it was painted 15 years ago as an indictment against the excesses of consumerist society, Trolley Hunters has never been as relevant as it is today. After a year wherein fault lines have been exposed in the consumerist system by a combination of COVID and geo-political stressors, and the supply chains which enabled our lavish lifestyles have broken down, the resonance of this image is amplified. With manufacturing delays, lines at ports, a shortage of haulers, and the White House pronouncing that some toys will not be on the shelves this Christmas, our erstwhile unfailing belief in consumerist culture has been shaken to its core. Despite all our evolutionary advances over the last 40,000 years, mankind is today reduced back to his Neanderthal instincts: hunter-gatherers panic buying and picking fights in petrol station forecourts and down supermarket aisles.