Banksy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips
  • "I don’t know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public; they forget that invisibility is a superpower." —Banksy

    Anonymous street artist, painter, and social activist Banksy has shaken up the art world with his distinctive oeuvre characterised by dark humour, satire and political commentary. Inspired by the thriving street art scene in his home city of Bristol, Banksy’s works started appearing on trains and city streets as early as 1993. Spray paint and cardboard stencils allowed the artist to achieve a meticulous level of detail with speed, keeping him safely beyond the reach of law enforcement. A biting, incisive social commentator of our age, Banksy’s street art and urban interventions question the notions of authority, institutional violence and capitalism. Many of Banksy’s iconic original murals were transformed into canvas works and editioned prints by the artist, allowing for the dissemination of his mischievous and satirical messages to wider audiences. 


    Keith Haring, Barking Dog Blue, 1994

    Choose Your Weapon-Lemon (lot 199) is a highly recognisable and sought-after work. First appearing in London’s Southwark in 2010, the work comments on Britain’s disaffected youth with a hoodie-wearing figure, whose outfit is stereotypically associated with gang culture and became the scourge of cities and towns around the country. Banksy also pays tribute to his fellow street artist Keith Haring by referencing one of the most important motifs in Haring’s body of work - the ‘barking dog’.  Echoing the socially-engaged activism prominent in Haring’s chosen themes, Choose your Weapon-Lemon rebuts mainstream stigmatisation of street culture, which the artist considers a powerful weapon to drive social change and address inherent systemic discrimination. It thus serves as a conscious warning that resonates with the artist’s own words: “There are crimes that become innocent and even glorious through their splendour, number and excess.” i


    Original mural on Waterloo Bridge in South Bank in 2004

    Girl with Balloon (lot 185), one of the most iconic images from Banksy, first appeared in 2002, depicting a girl gesturing toward a heart-shaped balloon, seemingly floating away. Although the original mural has been removed, over the years variations of this subject were created to support social campaigns such as the 2014 Syrian Refugee crisis. Known for his penchant for elaborate pranks, a canvas iteration of this famous motif self-destructed after the hammer went down at auction in 2018, making the image a worldwide sensation overnight. 


    A scene from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction

    Drawing on recognisable visual imagery, the artist subverts icons of cultural fantasy and products of capitalism to uncover disquieting truths regarding globalisation, exploitation and the mass media’s normalisation of violence. CND (lot 194) is one of the artist’s best-known anti-war works that protests against the British government’s involvement in the Iraq War. The work shows two soldiers surreptitiously painting the peace sign, one of them holding a rifle, the composition presenting an interesting juxtaposition to question the role played by governments in their peacekeeping missions. Along the same theme, Napalm (lot 192) depicts a more harrowing motif, with family-friendly Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald skipping cheerfully alongside a naked, crying girl, who upon close inspection, is the child depicted in the 1972 photograph taken after an aerial napalm attack during the Vietnam War. In Pulp Fiction (lot 191), the artist speaks out against violence with a humorous tribute to Quentin Tarantino’s hit film, depicting John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson holding bananas instead of guns in one of the film’s iconic scenes.


    One of the subjects that has extensively featured in Banksy’s body of works is the rat, the species’ reproductive abilities symbolic of the regenerative nature of street art. As the artist once wrote, ‘they live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees.’ ii The artist empowers this insignificant creature in Love Rat (lot 188)Because I’m Worthless (lot 187) and Welcome to Hell (lot 186), expressing his anti-establishment spirit through his unique brand of witty sarcasm. 


    The elusive artist’s stealthy presence has not stopped him from becoming a global phenomenon. Hijacking some of the world’s most respected museums and galleries with deceptive works masquerading as legitimate institutional offerings, one such work included a caveman rock drawing that has now found its way into the permanent collection of the British Museum. It is rare that a creative outlaw like Banksy has been so fully embraced by the art world establishment. With graffiti, performances and covert incursions - most recently at 2019’s Venice Biennale in 2019 - and more than 10 million followers watching his every move on Instagram, Banksy has truly established himself as an unstoppable cultural force.


    i Banksy quoted in, ‘Banksy Graffiti: A Book about the Thinking Street Artist, Huffpost, 30 August 2012, online.
    ii Banksy, Wall and Piece, London, 2005, p.83.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, United Kingdom
      Phillips, Hong Kong, 7 December 2018, lot 26
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • 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.

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numbered '57/350' with publisher's blindstamp lower right
screenprint in colours on wove paper
image 53.6 x 38.4 cm. (21 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
sheet 69.7 x 49.8 cm. (27 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.)

Published by Pictures on Walls, London in 2005, this work is number 57 from an unsigned edition of 350 (there was also a signed edition of 350), and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

HK$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for HK$529,200

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 4 December 2020