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  • Overview

     

    In Banksy’s Love is in the Air, a masked man, dressed as a militant, prepares to throw a bouquet of flowers with mercurial vigour. As he aims towards a direction unknown — located outside of the viewer’s field of vision — it becomes apparent that the man himself is the object of an imminent attack, the tip of his bouquet being prey to a large orange target. Typical of Banksy’s socially charged imagery, Love is in the Air demonstrates the artist’s sustained interest in the absurdity of war, as well as the arbitrariness that can derive from unequal power dynamics. Indeed, while the spraypainted protagonist is armed with blooming plants and nothing else, the forces surrounding him seem to operate from heavier weaponry, placing him in a position of immediate danger. Existing as part of a larger body of work commonly referred to as Love is in the Air or Flower Thrower or LIITA, the present work was executed in 2003, shortly after Banksy had produced the image’s first iteration as a large format stencilled graffiti in Jerusalem, which itself closely followed the erection of the West Bank Wall. Today, Love is in the Air is recognised as one of Banksy’s most iconic and most sought-after artworks, existing not only in the realm of fine arts but also as the graphically powerful subject of numerous commodified goods, including posters, phone covers, t-shirts and other types of merchandise all over the world.

     

    Banksy, Rage, Flower Thrower, which depicts a Palestinian protester throwing a bouquet of flowers by Banksy painted on a wall on the side of a garage on the main road from Beit Sahour a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem in the central West Bank. Palestinian Territories, Israel. Image: Alamy Stock Photo.

    Love is in the Air

     

    Reminiscent of late-1960s images of students protesting the Vietnam War, Love is in the Air shows the figure of a young man leaning back with an arm stretched outwards, as if winding up to throw something aggressively. Yet, instead of being seized in an act of violence that one would assume involves a bomb or a grenade, Banksy’s subject carries a symbol for peace and beauty — a bouquet of flowers. Extracted from a presumably chaotic and violent context and standing alone, poetically resilient in a sea of nothingness, the man is disconcertingly removed from the situation of unrest that his movements and attire suggest. With its riotous imagery, Love is in the Air is namely redolent of Andy Warhol’s Riots series, similarly focusing on the timelapse of violence — the pause and silence that separates a violent act from its fatal consequence. Equally, the picture’s pardoxical sense of quietude evokes Cady Noland’s striking sculptural manifestations of punctured silhouettes, which, despite indicating inherent violence, exude the similar sentiment of a deadly occurrence’s eerie aftermath. Her human silhouettes, often hoisting to the viewer’s size, suggest both the life and death of their bodies, just as Love is in the Air’s character is at once alive and inevitably obsolete, powerless against the force of the central orange target.

     

    Andy Warhol, Race Riot, 1964, silkscreened ink and synthetic polymer on canvas, Gagosian Gallery, New York. Image: Bridgeman Images.
    • Provenance

      WUK Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003

    • Exhibited

      Vienna, WUK Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Bad Press - Banksy, 26 June - 27 July 2003

    • Artist Biography

      Banksy

      British • 1974

      Anonymous street artist Banksy first turned to graffiti as a disillusioned youth. Inspired by the thriving graffiti community in his home city, Bristol, Banksy's works began appearing on trains and city streets in 1993, and by 2001, his signature, stenciled works had cropped up across the United Kingdom. Typically crafting his images with spray paint and cardboard stencils, Banksy is able to achieve a meticulous level of detail. His clean and immediately comprehensible aesthetic is a result of his unique ability to distill complex political and social statements into simple visual elements.  

      Through whimsy and humor, his graffiti works, paintings, and screenprints satirically critique war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. His anti-establishment wit has had an undeniable impact on today’s contemporary street culture.

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Property from a Private European Collection

Ο ◆20

Love is in the Air

spray paint on cardboard
68 x 67.5 cm (26 3/4 x 26 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2003, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£400,000 - 600,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £441,000

Contact Specialist

 

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+ 44 20 7318 4060
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Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+ 44 20 7318 4099
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 April 2021