Samsung polled some 2,000 Britons who were asked to select their most beloved artwork from a shortlist of 20 chosen by arts writers and editors. Banksy’s little girl holding a red, heart-shaped balloon fought off J.M.W. Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (1839) and John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ (1821) for the coveted top spot.
The street artist’s balloon girl first appeared on the wall of a printing shop in Shoreditch in 2002. At a 2012 auction a version of the work painted on the cardboard backing of a picture frame sold at auction for £73,250. The Shoreditch original was removed from the shop wall in 2014 for an exhibition and subsequent sale.
In June this year, Banksy was accused of violating electoral law after offering prints of a special edition of ‘Girl with a Balloon’ free to those who voted against the Conservative party in the general election. When “print-for-vote” offer triggered a police investigation it was quickly withdrawn from Banksy’s website.
With illustrious art world figures such as Henry Moore and John Everett Millais trailing behind Bristol-born Banksy the Samsung poll results have not been without controversy. One critic described the balloon girl as “sentimental tosh” and “proof of our stupidity” as a nation.
Among the other shortlisted works are Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit tower created for the Olympic Park in Stratford (number 16) and Peter Blake’s cover for the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (number 8).
The full list of results can be viewed here.