MAY 27 – 29
At this year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, we are pleased to highlight two exceptional works by graffiti artist Banksy: Flower Thrower and Girl with Balloon. Acquired in 2006 by the present owner, these two works are among the artist's most recognizable compositions.
Powerfully embodying the artist’s creations, both works are seminal and have become social and cultural phenomena.
“Graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Despite having to creep about at night and lie to your mum it’s actually the most honest artform available. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on some of the best walls a town has to offer, and nobody is put off by the price of admission. The wall has always been the best place to publish your work.”
Girl with Balloon (2006) is emblematic of Banksy’s imagery—powerfully embodying the artist’s creations, which have become social and cultural phenomena. Comprising two canvases with the stenciled image of a small child reaching out towards a bright red, heart-shaped balloon, the present work’s central motif offers an emotive vision of innocence and hope. Recurring across Banksy’s oeuvre, Girl with Balloon is not a fixed entity but rather a constantly evolving performance that has a collective dimension, interpreted in manifold and divergent ways.
Keeping with Banksy’s integral work as a street artist, the image has appeared in various locations across London, including on the wall of a print shop in Shoreditch and on Waterloo Bridge in Southbank. The Waterloo Bridge iteration was poignantly accompanied by the inscription “There is Always Hope.” Most recently, the Girl with Balloon figure was portrayed on the side of the former French Navy vessel Louise Michel, which Banksy purchased with proceeds from an auction sale of his artwork—funding the ship’s rescue of migrant refugees in the Mediterranean. Painted by the artist amidst a deep pink hue, the work’s presence on the ship—here, the girl is depicted in a lifejacket with a heart-shaped buoy—serves as a significant message of action and solidarity.
“All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.”
With its distinctive juxtaposition, Flower Thrower (2006) is among Banksy’s most recognizable compositions. Initially realized at various locations in London, the Flower Thrower image came to widespread public attention in 2003 after appearing as a large mural on the side of a garage in Beit Sahour, a Palestinian town near Bethlehem, amid heated debates surrounding the West Bank wall, the barrier along the border of Israel and Palestine.
The work portrays a masked figure poised in a stance indicative of protest—leaning back as if to throw an explosive towards an unseen target. Unexpectedly, however, a colorful bouquet of flowers appears in the figure’s outstretched hand. The image possesses a powerful duality: at once bearing echoes to the Flower Power movement and pacifist protests that took place in the United States and elsewhere in the 1960s and 70s; as well as to iconic images such as Susan Meiselas’s Molotov Man (1979), picturing a Sandinista resistance fighter during the Nicaraguan insurrection.