Banksy - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Overview


    A biting example of Banksy’s satirical oeuvre, Girl with Balloon & Morons Sepia is a double-sided composition boasting two of the artist’s most famous images: Girl with Balloon and Morons. On the recto, Girl with Balloon depicts a young girl extending her hand toward a red heart-shaped balloon, carried away by the wind. To the reverse, a crowd of art collectors is shown gathered around an auctioneer who, mid-performance, gestures toward a large, gilt-framed canvas. When held up to light, Girl with Balloon and Morons Sepia magically fuse into a single composition, transporting the young girl into the sale room, and creating a mirror effect between her extended arm and that of the auctioneer. Forming part of an edition of 8 works, the present work is nonetheless rendered unique by the artist’s spray painting of the young girl’s figure to the front of the work – a feat that distinguishes it from Banksy’s other editions of Girl with Balloon and Morons.



     The Making of an Iconic Image


    First developed in 2002 and 2006 respectively, Girl with Ballon and Morons have, as independent images, become ladden with meaning. The former, initially devised as a stencil mural, was exhibited in such public and political spaces as Waterloo Bridge and the West Bank barrier. Its portrayal of a young girl reaching for – or releasing – a drifting balloon spurred a number of interpretations relating to one’s inevitable loss of childhood and innocence. Recognised as one of the artist’s foremost symbols for more than a decade, and voted the nation’s favourite artwork in 2017, the image once again came to the forefront of the public’s attention in 2018, when a 2006 framed copy of the artwork came to auction and sold for a record price. Adding further momentum to the event, the work began self-destructing just a few moments after the closing bid, by means of a concealed mechanical paper shredder Banksy had built into the frame bottom. Marking auction history with an unprecedented performative quality, Girl with Balloon became an icon for the unpredictable developments of contemporary markets, whilst simultaneously entering the realm of popular culture.


    Detail of the present work. 

    Similarly quoting the environment and corporate fabric of the auction world, Morons was published as a set of six prints on the occasion of Banksy’s important and characteristically controversial warehouse exhibition Barely Legal, which took place in Los Angeles in 2006. In the now iconic image, an auctioneer commands a sale room packed with bidders, immortalising the historical 1987 sale that saw Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers yield a price of £22,500,000 – a record for any work at auction at the time. Among the works on display, a large canvas to the right of the composition stands out, reading the words ‘I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MORONS ACTUALLY BUY THIS SHIT’. Devising a facetious critique of the art world – one that Banksy has become known and revered for – the artist paradoxically turns his own creative gesture into a reproducible image, one that, in Girl with Balloon & Morons Sepia, constitutes half of the work’s iconographic value.


    Detail of the present work.

    Together, Morons and Girl with Balloon form a joint critique of the art world, irreverently contributing to the artist’s overarching political stance. As such, the work epitomises Banksy’s ability to propel his infamous urban vernacular to the realm of high art. ‘This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people’, he mused. ‘We need to make it count’.i


    Construction and Deconstruction


    When Banksy’s iconic image of a little girl holding a balloon self-destructed at auction, the anonymous artist once again dominated the headlines.



    iBansky, quoted in Will Ellsworth-Jones, ‘The Story Behind Banksy’, Smithsonian Mag, February 2013, online.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired directly from Pest Control)
      Acquired from the above 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.

      View More Works


Girl with Balloon & Morons Sepia

signed, numbered and dated 'Banksy 07 2/8' lower right
Girl with Balloon: spray paint on paper; Morons Sepia: screenprint on paper, double-sided
56.5 x 76 cm (22 1/4 x 29 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2007, this work is number 2 from an edition of 8, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

Full Cataloguing

£500,000 - 700,000 ‡♠

Sold for £1,232,500

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020