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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist in 2001
    Sotheby's Olympia, 'Contemporary Art', 7 February 2007, lot 529
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rats with cameras, children holding heart-shaped balloons, and policemen kissing each other – this is the witty and uniquely imaginary world of Banksy, Britain’s most famous contemporary street artist, as well as its most mysterious.

    Banksy has been making his distinctive hand-painted mark on the world’s cityscapes since the early 1990s, turning them into his own idiosyncratic sketchbooks. Primarily created by spraying black-and-white paint through stencils, his artworks are at times humorous and nostalgic, but their apparent whimsicality masks a sharp political bite, and they often convey anti-war messages. Such is the case with Bomb Middle England, in which three mild-looking senior citizens are pictured on a manicured green playing the polite English game of bowls but using bombs instead of balls. This is one of the artist’s quintessential strategies: to humorously disarm war-related iconography by turning it into an image of peace, such as with his famous masked flower-thrower in Love is the Air.

    Street art is often considered to have originated with the birth of hip-hop culture in late 1970s America. But its roots actually lie in earlier guerilla art forms such as the Situationist actions of the 1950s and the radical happenings of the 1960s, intended as a critique of art’s commodification by the cultural establishment. For example in the early 1960s, the Danish ex- Situationist Asger Jorn made a series of what he called ‘Modifications’ or ‘Défigurations’, in which he painted over cheap 19th-century prints, usually sourced from flea markets, to enhance and modernise what he considered meaningless old images. With this venerable lineage, street art today encompasses many art forms and styles, including graffiti, posters, installation, video, and many forms of modern technology.

    After many years of making his hugely popular polemical yet funny work, Banksy has helped raise street art from an underground cult into a globally recognised movement. Thanks to his success, critics and galleries have raised the profile of many other graffiti artists. Examples include designer Shepard Fairey, responsible for Barack Obama’s iconic ‘Hope’ poster from the 2008 US election, and the Norwegian stencil artist Dolk, both of who are now represented by mainstream galleries.

    But despite street art’s elevation to high culture, Banksy’s belief in a ‘democratic’ form of art, accessible to everyone, remains firm: "Despite what they say, graffiti art is not the lowest form of art, although you might have to creep out at night and lie to your mum, it’s actually one of the more honest art forms available. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer and nobody is put off by the price of admission" (Bansky: Wall and Piece, p. 8).

  • Artist Biography

    Banksy

    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

15

Bomb Middle England

2001
acrylic and spraypaint stencil on canvas
92 x 183 cm (36 1/4 x 72 in)
Tagged 'BANKSY' on the right overlap. This work has been authenticated by Pest Control Office and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £229,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013
London