Banksy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle Hong Kong Thursday, December 1, 2022 | Phillips

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  • “Doing what you’re told is generally overrated. More crimes are committed in the name of obedience than disobedience. It’s those who follow any authority blindly who are the real danger.
    — Banksy

    Undoubtedly one of the most controversial street artists in the contemporary art scene, Bristolian street artist Banksy has achieved global attention whilst still maintaining his anonymity. Known for his iconic anti-war imagery such as Kids on Guns (2003), Banksy’s works provide poignant and potent social commentaries on contemporary issues such as terrorism, political authority and capitalism. Utilising simple visual cues and a strong contrast in colour, his works deliver powerful messages that are universally understood, marked by dark humour, satire, and strong political undertones.



    Kids on Guns


    “All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They've been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.”
    — Banksy


    Emerging as a graffiti artist as early as 1993, Banksy’s stencils appeared throughout the streets of Bristol, London, Paris, and New York. Choosing to work with stencils since 2000, Banksy is thus able to achieve meticulous details more quickly, keeping him beyond the reach of local law enforcements.


    With its striking simplicity and raw immediacy, Kids on Guns is a prime example demonstrating the artist’s famed stencil and spray paint approach that originated from his time as a graffiti artist on the streets of Bristol. This technique allowed him to work quickly and make hasty escapes, maintaining a consistent level of quality in his work whilst protecting his anonymity as his popularity grew. 



    Detail of the present lot


    In Kids on Guns, the artist places the image of an innocent little girl and boy – accentuated with a heart shaped balloon and teddy bear – against the silhouettes of a mountain of weapons below their feet in a satirical juxtaposition. Surrounded by violence and threats, the two young children look to each other for consolation, as the boy rests his hand on the girl’s shoulder as a sign of reassurance.


    Standing atop the mountain of brutality with a shining red balloon – an iconic motif that is almost synonymous to Banksy himself – the children are advocating for hope amongst fear in sombre solidarity, offering an alternative view against the chaotic state of affairs that is war, oppression, hatred and violence.


    In 2013, during Banky’s time at his residency with Better Out Than In in New York, the artist set up a temporary stall in Central Park with an unassuming hawker to sell his stencilled works to onlooking tourists and passerbys, priced at $60 each. Several of Banky’s most iconic black and white motifs were available, amongst which is an edition of Kids on Guns.


    This act democratised Banksy’s works and made it more accessible to the public; works by the artist were bought as if they were any trinket on a street market. The stark contrast between the initial purchase price of $60 and the current auction records positions the work as a witty and potent commentary on art circulation, the art market and authenticity as a whole.



    Invasion of the Institution


    “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
    — Banksy


    Controversial yet packed with punchy humour, Banksy's works have always poked fun at the art establishment, undercutting the elite within the industry. In the earlier days of Banksy’s creative career, the artist organised street interventions and museum incursions. Between March and May 2005, Banksy had snuck his way into four of New York’s elite cultural institutions: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and also London’s British Museum. Hijacking these world-renowned public spaces, Banksy displayed his own parodic, ‘vandalised’ versions of old master paintings on the walls: Mona Lisa wearing a smiley face mask; an admiral clutching a spray can in front of anti-war graffiti, to name a few.


    Peckham Rock (2005) (later on renamed to Wall Art) featured a hunter pushing a supermarket cart that had appeared in the British Museum, masquerading as a legitimate part of the museum’s collection and was displayed undetected for three days. Ironically yet fittingly, this work was later acquired into the permanent collection of the British Museum.


    Acting as institutional critique, these works questioned and subverted the very environment in which art lives in – the museum, making a statement that art does not have to be produced and consumed by a certain coterie of artists and critics, breaking art free from its preconceived definitions and constraints. These underlying satirical and political tones of Banksy’s creations evoke the same dissident principles that inspired conceptual art, marking him as one of the pioneering artists of his time. 


    Embodying both sides of a multi-layered paradox, Banksy’s works comment on potentially marginalising political issues with contrasting punchy, light humour; he is immensely popular, yet remains an anonymous persona; his works originated from the streets, yet has found their ways into international prestigious institutions. Continuously pushing the boundaries of art and taste, it is this unique duality that captivates the audience with such powerful resonance.



    Collector’s Digest 


    With his popularity, Banksy has established himself as a widespread cultural phenomenon with an air of mystique as he continues to keep a stealth status. Despite remaining anonymous, Banksy was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2010, alongside Barack Obama and Steve Jobs.


    Revolutionising the way street art is perceived and redefining ‘art’ itself, works by Banksy can be found in prestigious public collections including the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. With a massive following of over 10 million on Instagram, Banksy is the world’s most renowned mystery man, and a trailblazer that continues to catapult the art historical cannon in new directions.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, UK
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Gianni Mercurio, ed., exh. cat., MUDEC- Museo delle Culture, Milan, 2018, p. 128 (another example illustrated)

    • Artist Biography


      British • 1975 - N/A

      Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a miserable fourteen year old disillusioned with school. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and walls in 1993, and by 2001 his blocky, spray-painted works had cropped up all over the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His aesthetic is clean and instantly readable due to his knack for reducing complex political and social statements to simple visual elements.

      His graffiti, paintings and screenprints use whimsy and humour to satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed — with not even the Royal family safe from his anti-establishment wit.

      View More Works



Kids on Guns

numbered and dated '3/25 2003' on the reverse, stencilled with the artist's name 'BANKSY' lower right overlap
spray paint on canvas
50 x 50 cm. (19 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2003, this work is number 3 from an edition of 25, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

HK$8,500,000 - 12,000,000 

Sold for HK$7,147,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in association with Yongle

Hong Kong Auction 1 December 2022