Banksy (B. 1975) Bomb Love 2002

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Lot 13AR
(B. 1975)
Bomb Love

Sold for £ 562,750 (US$ 749,518) inc. premium
Banksy (B. 1975)
Bomb Love

tagged on the turnover edge
spray paint on canvas

25.4 by 20.3 cm.
10 by 8 in.

This work was executed in 2002.


  • This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control Office.

    Santa's Ghetto, London
    Simon Finch, London
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2004

    Bomb Love is pure Banksy: provocative, bitingly satirical and yet tender. Always a vicious opponent of mass media and casual consumerism the sense that today's youth are being sold aggression instead of innocence, war instead of play explodes from the canvas in a flash of bubble-gum pink. The little girl sporting a ponytail tightly hugs onto the cumbersome military weapon as if it were her favourite cuddly toy and this is redolent of his Girl and Balloon in its whimsicality, and Kids on Guns in its wistful agony. All three images are stone cold classics by the artist coming from the zenith of the artist's most celebrated period.

    The image that first appeared as a black-and-white stencil on the streets of East London in 2001 has since become an iconic Banksy motif which is highly sought after by collectors. Executed on canvas and tagged with the artist's distinctive signature, Bomb Love from 2002 is executed onto a rosy base colour reminiscent of infanthood that enhances the motif and gives the work itself an innocent and naïve quality. Bomb Love is fresh to the market and whilst the artist later executed a print version of the popular subject, works on canvas from the series are rare at auction with the last comparable work having been offered over a decade ago.

    Banksy's works intend to shock, yet they also aim to engender thought-provoking discourse through their simple visual elements. The proximity of someone so vulnerable, yet so close to danger, is undoubtedly compelling, and through Banksy's clever dichotomy, the artist is sending a message of optimism to the universe, with the aspiration that one day love will overcome war. The image appeared in his autobiographical book Wall and Piece, alongside the caption "I like to think I have the guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no-one else believes in – like peace and justice and freedom" (the artist in: Wall and Piece, London 2005, p. 29). Bomb Love is charged with a veiled anti-war sentiment and through his rendering, Banksy is tackling international concerns, and critiquing the government and the media for the rose-tinted glasses worn during periods of brutal warfare.

    This evident juxtaposition of the fragilities of childhood, closely intertwined with the atrocities of war, is an ironic combination of subject matters common in Banksy's Street art. The depiction of a young child heightens the emotions of love, loss, and hope and there is seemingly an appetite amongst collectors for this powerful motif of lost innocence. Earlier in 2021 an original of Girl with Ice Cream on Palette from 2004 sold for £1,100,000 in Bonhams' Post-War and Contemporary sale in London.

    The artist's empathetic and consistent dialogue within a contemporary global crisis is to be admired and there is an attractive irony to Banksy's compassion. The hybrid street artist and social activist rose to prominence in the 1990s as a graffiti maverick, rejecting any form of government control. Banksy's close encounters with the police in his early years led him to adopt his signature stencils; spraying onto a ready-made template allowed the artist to execute his works quickly, whilst sheltering behind his concealed identity.

    According to Banksy, "all graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They've been used to start revolutions and to stop wars" (the artist in: Tristan Manco, Stencil Graffiti, London 2002). Despite the use of stencilling by other notorious street rebels, such as Blek le Rat and Shepard Fairey, Banksy has placed himself in a category of his own and has superseded any expectation of graffiti subculture's success. His outlaw status and anti-establishment street art are the essence of his prolific career and practice. He is perhaps the most important artist to emerge in Britain since the turn of the millennium and this signature work can be seen as a signature example of the artist at his very best.

    Banksy's ever-growing popularity is testament to his remarkable ability to react and adapt to the contemporary art market, and the world at large. He repeatedly appears in the public eye, and in August 2021 the artist was recognised for the undertaking of his A Great British Spraycation, in which he installed several graffiti pieces across the English coastline, bringing joy and whimsy to local neighbourhoods. He continues to construct his own narrative, and his decision to stay anonymous despite his international attention, makes Banksy an intoxicating enigma.

    Executed in 2002, Bomb Love is a prime model of Banksy's enduring anti-war art of the last two decades, and in keeping with the context of the sale, the work will be accompanied alongside another highly evocative Banksy piece from the same year, Rude Copper.
Banksy (B. 1975) Bomb Love 2002
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