Banksy’s Girl With Balloon was first stencilled across London in 2002 under Waterloo Bridge at London’s Southbank Centre, together with a quotation that read ‘There is always hope’ …before the council painted over it.
A couple of years later, Girl With Balloon resurfaced on a printing shop wall in trendy Shoreditch, which the owner later auctioned off. Unfortunately, none of the Girl With Balloon murals remains in London, but the image has lived on forever and is arguably Banksy’s most famous and sought-after image. A 2017 Samsung poll ranked Girl with Balloon as the United Kingdom’s number one favourite artwork beating the likes of David Hockney and Bridget Riley.
Girl With Balloon depicts a young girl whose hair and dress are blowing in the strong wind, releasing, reaching, or catching a red, heart-shaped balloon. The message of the piece can be interpreted in several ways. Some believe the balloon may have slipped from her grasp in the strong wind, been intentionally freed, or flown past her.
Banksy’s written message “There is always Hope” accompanying Girl With Balloon has led the artist to create many variations addressing specific political issues. The anonymous artist loaned his moniker and style in 2014 to support Syrians affected by the country’s brutal civil war. The famous Balloon Girl was transformed to resemble a Syrian girl.
“On the 6th March 2011 in the Syrian town of Daraa, fifteen children were arrested and tortured for painting anti-authoritarian graffiti,” a statement on Banksy’s website reads. “The protests that followed their detention led to an outbreak of violence across the country that would see a domestic uprising transform into a civil war displacing 9.3 million people from their homes.”
Banksy also reworked Girl With Balloon in 2017 to feature a Union Jack balloon and offered Bristol locals who voted against the Conservative government a free print! Read more here.
“Simply send in a photo of your ballot paper from the polling day showing you voted against the Conservative candidate and this complimentary gift will be mailed to you” Banksy website
In 2020 Banksy financed a boat to rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. The migrant crisis meant that European states were instructing their Coastguard not to answer distress calls from ‘non-Europeans’, leaving desperate people to drift helplessly at sea. To make matters worse, authorities prevented other boats from providing assistance, arresting crews and impounding boats that did. So Banksy bought an independent high-speed boat to outrun them. The bright pink vessel is decorated with Banksy’s artwork depicting a girl in a life vest holding a heart-shaped safety buoy, referencing his most famous artwork, ‘Girl With Balloon’. Read more here.
In 2018, Banksy pulled one of the most famous stunts in contemporary art history when he tried to shred his framed painting Girl with Balloon at Sotheby’s auction house. As the hammer went down on an already record-breaking sale of the print, Girl With Balloon slid through a hidden shredder in the frame and produced an altogether new work which Banksy named Love is in the Bin! Read more here.
Love is in the Bin is both the only work of art ever to be created live at auction and the all-time highest-selling Banksy, achieving almost £18.6 million when the original anonymous buyer returned it to auction in 2021.
Girl With Balloon is one of the favourite Banksy murals, and the artist has created many versions, from works on canvas to a paper print with various colourways.
The screen print was released in 2004/5 as only 150 signed editions and 600 unsigned editions. Banksy offered signed editions for only £150.
Girl with Balloon 2004
Medium: Screenprint in colours on wove paper
Size: 70×50 cm (27 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches)
Signed Edition: 150 Unsigned Edition: 600 Artist’s Proof: 88 signed AP Four colourways: 22 signed AP of each
Publisher: Pictures on Walls
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