Banksy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place."

    Protestor puts flowers into the barrels of soldiers' rifles during the Vietnam War, 1967

    ​An icon of the 21st century, Banksy’s Love Is In The Air is one of the artist’s most recognizable images. Evoking the 1960s pacifist slogan “Make Love Not War,” the work is a symbol of peaceful resistance and an ode to spontaneity. Executed in 2002, the present work is from a discrete edition of five canvases Banksy created for his debut exhibition in Los Angeles, Existencillism, at the 33 1/3 Gallery in July 2002. Like Bernini’s David, in Love Is In The Air, a solitary protestor is captured just at the moment before climactic action. However the weapon of choice for Banksy’s figure is a bouquet of flowers. The stenciled image first appeared as graffiti in Jerusalem in 2003 shortly after the erection of the West Bank Wall. One of Banksy’s most sought-after images, Love Is In The Air is quintessential of Banksy’s tongue-and-cheek social critiques expressed through his signature graphic style.


    Gian Lorenzo Bernini, David, 1623-1624. Galleria Borghese, Rome, Image: © Vanni Archive / Art Resource, NY

    Despite the site-specific context of its iteration on the West Bank Wall, Love Is In The Air represents protest without specifying its target, thereby embodying a hint of the punk ethos of non-conformity and perpetual resistance to authority that is typical of the artist’s early graffiti works. Like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Banksy utilizes graffiti as a tool for activism—but for Banksy, the stencil is the driving force. As he expressed, “As soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.”i


    Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear / Silence = Death, 1989, Whitney Museum of Art

    Across the various painted iterations of Love Is In The Air, Banksy varies the effect of the spray paint, showcasing different renderings of shadow, blur, and the figure’s bouquet. In the present work, the artist elongates the shadow between the figure’s legs and creates a prominent blurring effect to the image, at once evoking the speed of the protestor’s movement and the nature of memory. Creating a striking visual contrast with the rest of the composition, the touches of bright red allude the color’s dual significations of violence and love, encapsulating Banksy’s message for this iconic image—love as the ultimate weapon.


    Collector's Digest


    • Recently in May 2021, Banksy's Love Is In The Air achieved the artist's second highest record at auction, realizing $12,903,000.


    i Banksy, quoted in Will Ellsworth-Jones, “The Story Behind Banksy,” Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013, online.

    • Provenance

      Laz Inc., London
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Sotheby’s, London, June 26, 2009, lot 174 (titled as Untitled (Flower Thrower))
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Los Angeles, 33 1/3 Gallery, Existencilism, July 19 - August 18, 2002 (another example exhibited)

    • 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

Property from a Private Swiss Collection


Love Is In The Air

stenciled with the artist’s tag "BANKSY" on the turnover edge; further signed, inscribed, numbered and dated “Banksy LA 2002 4/5” on the stretcher
spray paint on canvas
20 x 17 in. (50.8 x 43.3 cm)
Executed in 2002, this work is number 4 from an edition of 5 and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

$1,000,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $1,179,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021