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Heavy Weaponry (On Multi-Coloured Background)

Heavy Weaponry (On Multi-Coloured Background)
signed 'BANKSY' (lower right); signed and dated 'BANKSY 09' (on the reverse)
spraypaint and acrylic on board, in artist's frame
23 3/8 x 27 1/2 x 2 1/8in. (59.4 x 70 x 5.5cm.)
Executed in 2009, this work is from a varied series
Private Collection (acquired directly from the artist).
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 16 February 2011, lot 227.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Bristol, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Banksy vs. Bristol Museum, 2009 (another from the series exhibited).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Presented in an artist’s frame, Heavy Weaponry (On Multi-Coloured Background) is a striking example of Banksy’s satirical and socially-charged compositions. Executed in 2009, it is closely related to another version that featured in his landmark exhibition Banksy vs the Bristol Museum that same year. Rendered in his instantly-recognisable hand-cut stencil technique, the work depicts an elephant charging across the picture plane with a missile strapped to its back. Behind the animal, brightly-coloured stripes recall a television error screen. Capturing the anti-war sentiment that has fuelled some of Banksy’s best-known images, the motif of the armed elephant has recurred throughout his practice. First depicted in spray paint on fibreboard in 1998—against a colourful barcode labelled ‘Heavy Weaponry’—it was reimagined on canvas in 2000, spray-painted onto weathered iron in 2001, and depicted over another work, titled Radar Rat, on cardboard in 2002. Replete with biting humour and dark irony, the present work offers a refinement of Banksy’s original spray-painted motif, returning for the first time to the colourful background introduced a decade earlier.

With its elephant protagonist seemingly resigned to its fate, Heavy Weaponry condemns humankind’s propensity for destruction. In its bold, absurdist depiction of military drudgery, the work demonstrates the witty social and political commentary through which Banksy has sought to condemn mass violence. His seminal Love Is In The Air, painted on the West Bank barrier wall, railed against the need for conflict; so too did images such as ‘Bomb Hugger’ and Happy Choppers, which became poster images for protests against military action in the Middle East in 2003. In Heavy Weaponry, as in many of his other works, Banksy uses an animal as a stand-in for the people, here drawing a parallel between the ‘heaviness’ of the elephant and the gigantic missile strapped to its back. Elsewhere, works such as Monkey Detonator and Laugh Now had used monkeys to lampoon abuses of power, humorously satirising our disregard for nature and the world around us. This rebellious, anti-establishment ethos permeates the present work, offering a powerful riposte to modern warfare.

From his early days in Bristol, to his rise to fame in London and his subsequent travels across the globe, Banksy has long relied upon the power of stencils. He was drawn to the medium after observing the lettering on the underside of a rubbish truck whilst hiding from the police in his teens. Raw and immediate, the technique would infuse his works with a bold, anarchic edge, underscoring the apparent lawlessness of his graffiti practice. Married to Banksy’s method is his ethos that art belongs to the people: that by mirroring the concerns of the masses, it has power to transform the world. ‘As soon as I cut my first stencil, I could feel the power there’, he has said. ‘I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars’ (Banksy, quoted in W. Ellsworth-Jones, ‘The Story Behind Banksy’, Smithsonian Magazine, 2013). This sentiment is brought to bear upon Heavy Weaponry, its iconographic image alive with symbolic and political power.

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