Some 15 years ago, the stencilled image of a young girl letting go of a balloon was graffitied on the wall of a printing shop in Shoreditch by an anonymous street artist going by the name of Banksy. Ten years later, a version of this image was painted onto cardboard and sold at an auction house for a staggering £73,250. Today, the UK has hailed the street painting as a work of art, voting ‘Balloon Girl’ as its favourite work.
In July, Banksy’s balloon stencil was named as the nation’s favourite artwork, pulled from a list of classic images and sculptures from artists such as John Constable, JMW Turner and Anthony Gormley.
According to the Guardian, the list of 20 artists was composed by a variety of arts editors and writers. Samsung then conducted a poll of 2,000 people who chose ‘Balloon Girl’ over the likes of ‘The Hay Wain’ by John Constable, ‘The Singing Butler’ by Jack Vettriano, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ by JMW Turner, and ‘The Angel of the North’ by Anthony Gormley.
Other famous works of pop culture made the list with The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth being ranked in eighth place. In addition to this, Hipgnosis and George Hardie's Dark Side of the Moon album cover was also listed.
Further down at 20th was Jamie Reid's Never Mind the Bollocks album sleeve for the Sex Pistols, reports the BBC.
The Guardian highlighted that the shortlist mostly consisted of male artists, with only two female artists at the lower end of the list, at 15th and 18th place. These were works by Bridget Riley and Maggi Hambling respectively.
While many art enthusiasts agree with the naming of Banksy’s work as the nation’s favourite, calling it a ‘refreshing appreciation of modern art’, there has also been some criticism, with mentions of a ‘lack of taste’ among the British public.
Jonathan Jones, as an example, wrote in the Guardian: “Instead of portraying a rich human being with mysterious emotions, Banksy gives us a one-dimensional icon whose pathos is instantly readable.
“The very lack of art in his art is what makes it popular. Real art is elusive, complex, ambiguous and often difficult. Imagine how future generations will mock us for sanctifying Banksy, the Boaty McBoatface of modern art.”
Other critics argue that the scale of the survey and quality of responses could be improved to gauge a more accurate favourite.
Over the years, Banksy’s satirical graffiti art, which has challenged culture in the UK and across the world, has appeared on numerous streets, walls, bridges and other surfaces, often carrying a message with it.
He claims that his work is inspired by 3D, another graffiti artist who then became a founding member of the music group Massive Attack.