A work of art by mystery Bristol street artist Banksy that has never been sold before is up for auction at Sotheby’s later this month – with a guide price of more than £1 million.
The work is “Love Is In The Air (with stars)” and a unique version of the Banksy classic of Flower Thrower, the masked rioter who is throwing a bunch of flowers instead of a petrol bomb.
The work, which has been authenticated by Banksy’s Pest Control team, was done in 2006 and is sprayed on canvas measuring just 16¾ inches by 17 inches. It was part of the huge number of Banksy works acquired by Steve Lazarides, who grew up with Banksy from the Barton Hill Youth Club days in Bristol, and was the street artist’s first promoter, collector and exhibitor back in the mid 2000s.
It’s the first time this version of the Flower Thrower has been on sale, and auction house Sotheby’s have put an estimate on it of between $1 million and $1.5 million when it goes under the hammer in New York on November 17.
Describing it as one of Banksy’s ‘most iconic and immediately recognizable images’, a spokesperson for Sotheby’s New York said the work of art “encapsulates the decisive social commentary and with that typifes the artist’s highly acclaimed oeuvre.”
“Distinguished by its diamond shape and arch of red stars surrounding the iconic image of the flower thrower, the present work is the first diamond-shaped star thrower to appear at auction. Love is in the Air (with stars) shares its title with the 1978 hit song by John Paul Young, emblematic of Banksy’s humor and reverence for Pop Culture. The youthful figure, dressed as a militant, leans backwards with one arm outstretched, as if preparing to throw something aggressively. Banksy’s iconic subject adopts the archetypal pose of civil disobedience, preparing to throw a bomb or a Molotov cocktail in the air towards an unseen enemy.
“Yet, the weapon is replaced with a bouquet of flowers, disarming the image of its connotations of violent unrest and expressing a potent call for peace. First created on a wall at Beit Sahour near the West Bank Barrier, Banksy’s image of the flower thrower has become a powerful message expressing the absurdity of war and the artist’s vocal advocacy for peace,” they added.
Describing the red stars on the artwork as ‘tantalising halo’, Sotheby’s say it ‘creates an interesting and dynamic tension between the delicacy of the stencil and the brutality of the arc, acts as a roadmap for the flowers being thrown.’
“The present work exposes the artist’s continued interest in the irrationality of the war, and the associated political extremism that can derive from unbalanced power dynamics. Embracing his role as a social commentator, Banksy uses the power of familiar symbols of both an arch of stars and a bouquet of flowers, which results in controversial and provocative images, to convey a political message.
“The artist reminds us of the injustice and inequality that persists in contemporary society, and provides a universal message for hope, advocating for peace and social change to overcome the conflicts that surround us. This highly demonstrative work contributed to establishing Banksy’s place in the history of art, securing his reputation as a cardinal and extensively heard voice,” they added.
The Flower Thrower has, along with the rats, monkeys and the girl with a balloon, become some of Banksy’s most recognisable artworks. The work was first done on an actual wall at Beit Sahour near the wall which encloses the West Bank in Palestine.
After moving to London back at the turn of the century, in recent years, with Banksy moving back to the West Country, the elusive artist has done more work in his native Bristol – including one on the side wall of a house in Barton Hill and another at the bottom of the steepest residential road in England – Vale Street in Totterdown.