As one of the most famous and provocative artists of the 21st century, whose street art interventions and studio practice has continually pushed boundaries and caused controversy the world over with the artist’s signature brand of political and social commentary | Source: Sotheby's

Subversive Street Art: 10 of Banksy’s Most Debatable Pieces

Known for his defiantly subversive and satirical artworks, Banksy completely revolutionised the world of street art. Having retained his anonymity for years, Banksy’s first artwork appeared in Bristol in the late 1990s and his identity has been under speculation ever since. The combination of his often dark social commentary and secretive identity has resulted in a million-dollar market for his pieces.

Despite his artwork selling for millions, Banksy himself does not receive a cent. In 2018, one of his pieces, Balloon Girl, was sold in a Sotheby’s auction in London for approximately A$1.9 million. Shortly after the sale, an alarm sounded and the picture was shredded through a paper shredder that Banksy had secretly installed in the frame. Considered by many to be one of the biggest pranks ever played in the art industry.

As one of the most famous and provocative artists of the 21st century, whose street art interventions and studio practice has continually pushed boundaries and caused controversy the world over with the artist’s signature brand of political and social commentary, Banksy is the disruptor par excellence of the art world. 

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Also known as Can’t Beat That Feeling, Napalm is Banksy’s controversial take on the famous Vietnam War photograph, The Terror of War by photographer Nick Ut. Banky’s portrayal places the young, terrified girl from the original photograph in the clutches of two of the world’s most litigious corporations. Making a comment on the dangers of capitalism, the image is one of the street artist’s most powerful.

Image: Napalm by Banksy Source: Artbroker

Seasons Greetings

Having appeared just before Christmas in 2018, the image was discovered on a garage wall in Port Talbot in Wales. The town is home to the largest steel plant in the United Kingdom and the artwork is referencing the levels of pollution it inflicts not only on the town and notably, the children who may suffer its health consequences in years to come.

Image: Season’s Greetings piece stencilled onto a garage in Wales Source: Wikipedia

Well Hung Lover

Painted on the side of a sexual health clinic in Bristol, this 2008 Banksy image was the first legal piece of street art in the entire United Kingdom. The amusing mural has been paint-splattered multiple times since its creation, however, it still remains.

Image: Well Hung Lover Source: Wikipedia

Hitchhiker to Anywhere

Controversially depicting the notorious cult leader responsible for a number of murders, Charles Manson, the image depicts Manson in a prison uniform attempting to hitch a ride. Painted in a London archway, the painting was defaced by a group known as Team Robbo and the painting was officially removed a few years after its creation.

Image: Hitchhiker to Anywhere Source: Wikipedia

Shop Till You Drop

Created at a time of year where overspending and unnecessary purchasing is at an all-time high, the image is a literal take on the self-destructive effects of consumerism. Found in West London, the image was stencilled onto the side of an unused building.

Image: Shop Until You Drop by Banksy Source: Wikipedia

Valentines Day on Marsh Lane

Depicting his signature slingshot motif, this Banksy image portrays a young girl firing a slingshot of flowers at a building in Bristol. Painted on the side of a family home, the owners were so thrilled to discover it that they considered covering the artwork with glass to preserve it.

Image: Banksy’s Valentines Day Marsh Lane artwork Source: Canvas Art Rocks

Dismaland Mural

This amusing mural was painted at Branky’s own pop-up amusement park named Dismaland. Portraying two young boys peeking at a woman in the shower, the image delicately balances dark and light humour.

Image: A mural in Banksy’s “Dismaland,” in Weston-Super-Mare, England Source: The New York Times

The Balloon Girl

The Balloon Girl is the artwork behind the famous Sotheby’s auction prank. First painted in 2002 in London, the image is one of a series of similar street artworks depicting a young girl holding onto and losing a red balloon. The image is one of Banksy’s most recognisable. In typical Banksy fashion another Sotheby’s sold piece, Love is in the Bin, made headlines after it was shredded in front of a stunned auction crowd after selling for almost A$2 million in 2018.

Image: Banky’s Balloon Girl Source: The Artist

The Child Soldier

The Child Soldier is a poignant artwork created by Banksy in Hollywood. Appearing on the wall of Urban Outfitters, the piece attempts to highlight the corruption of childhood innocence, commenting on both the existence of weapons in America and other parts of the world.

Image: Banksy’s The Child Soldier in Los Angeles Source: The Artist

Kissing Coppers

Stencilled onto the wall of the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, Kissing Coppers is a direct attack on homophobia. Reminiscent of the famous Berlin Wall image, the image also places two authority figures in an LGBTQ relationship to call for more acceptance of LGBTQ relationships.

Image: Banksy’s Kissing Coppers in Brighton Source: The Artist

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