Balloon Girl or Girl With Balloon is perhaps the most famous Banksy image, highly coveted by collectors and enthusiasts alike. It was released in 2004 as a limited edition screen print of 150 signed and 600 unsigned works in red, rendered in Banksy’s iconic graffiti-stencil style. Other colour variants such as yellow, gold, dark pink, light pink and purple were also released in 88 signed artists proofs. The artwork depicts a young girl reaching for a red, heart-shaped balloon as it’s flying away from her grasp. It first appeared as a piece of graffiti in London’s South Bank with the quotation “There is always hope”.
Children are a recurring motif throughout Banksy’s works, representing hope, innocence, and the future. The balloon could symbolise love, hope, dreams and aspirations, and childhood itself, gradually floating out of reach. In its purity and simplicity, this image resonates with a profound, bittersweet truth. After being voted the UK's favourite work of art in 2017, Girl With Balloon gained further notoriety when an edition of the print shredded itself at the Sotheby's Evening Sale in 2018 in front of a live audience, after the hammer came down at £1.4 million. One of Banksy’s most discussed stunts to this day, the destroyed artwork was officially re-authenticated under the title Love is in the Bin (2018).