Banksy, Girl With Balloon, 2004. Courtesy of Graffik Gallery / Banksy Editions.

Banksy: Girl with Balloon

A stenciled painting of a little girl reaching for a red, heart-shaped balloon first appeared under the Waterloo Bridge in London in 2002. Banksy, the popular street artist behind the image, included in his initial rendition the caption: “There is Always Hope.” While the iconic mural was later destroyed, the motif quickly grew in popularity, earning the title of the favorite piece of British art, according to a Samsung study in 2017. To spread this message of hope, Banksy released limited edition prints of Girl with Balloon in 2003, reproduced the image in the West Bank in 2005, and projected the motif onto the Eiffel Tower to spread awareness about the Syrian conflict in 2014 (a showing that inspired Justin Bieber to get a tattoo of Girl with Balloon on his arm). Girl with Balloon is now best known for a 2018 spectacle at Sotheby’s auction house, where a 2006 painting of the image self-destructed through a shredder embedded in its frame after selling for over $1 million. “We got Banksy-ed,” Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art in Europe said after the spectacle.

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