Banksy’s Mobile Lovers appeared on Bristol’s Clement Street in April 2014, stencilled onto a wall owned by Broad Plains Boys Club. The artwork depicts an embracing couple hypnotised by their mobile phones.
It’s a work of light and dark: the lights from the couple’s phones illuminate their faces and cast shadows along their arms, while the rest of their bodies are softly blurred. They hold each other elegantly, almost like dancers, while at the same time there’s something undeniably stiff about their posture – as if they’ve been standing like that for a while. Their rigidity is emphasised by the suits they wear; Banksy’s way of telling us that these are capitalist drones whose phone use is inextricable from their no doubt pressing work life, carried out at the expense of their relationship to each other – at the expense of human connection in general.
Photographs of the Banksy artwork were first uploaded to his website before it was spotted by the public, sending art fanatics from across the country in search of the British artist’s brand-new piece. It was finally discovered 24 hours later.
Just a few months on, in August 2014, the 120-year-old boys club was struggling for funds and risked closing. Dennis Stinchcombe, club’s owner, decided to sell the Banksy graffiti to a private collector for £403,000.
Following the sale, Mobile Lovers was seized by the police while they investigated who actually owned it. In turn, the artist made an unusually public comment on the situation, writing to Stinchcombe that he should do whatever he “feels is right with the piece…I’m a great admirer of the work done at the club and would be chuffed if this can help in some way.” adding that “your tenacity in the past few weeks has made for an entertaining spectator sport.”
Stinchcombe told the BBC that “I think as a young man [Banksy] went to Barton Hill youth club and probably came into my club several times at the Dings in St Phillips.”
Banksy is not exactly known for endorsing the removal of his artworks from public space. He condemned the 2014 exhibition Stealing Banksy? which showcased some of his art that had been taken from their original locations: “This show has got nothing to do with me and I think it’s disgusting people are allowed to go around displaying art on walls without getting permission.”
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hang Banksy prints on your wall! Canvas Art Rocks’ huge collection of popular Banksy art can be purchased in a variety of forms: have a look at Banksy’s Girl With Balloon on canvas or as a poster; or check out this vinyl sticker to make a bolder statement.
CANVAS ART ROCKS PICKS: 3 for 2!
If you’re feeling inspired after reading about the Banksy painting Mobile Lovers, have a look at this selection of our massive range of Banksy prints below. Here, we focus on three more images of embracing couples that convey a variety of messages. What’s more, you can now buy two and get the third free!
If you love Banksy as well as Blur, this is the print for you: this haunting image was stencilled by Banksy for the artwork for the band’s 2007 album Think Tank. It might seem against type for the artist to take on commercial work, but Banksy faced up publicly to the reality of the financial difficulties of an artistic career, stating that ‘I've done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and quite a lot of money. I think that's a really important distinction to make. If it's something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn't turn it to shit just because it's commercial.’
One of Banksy’s most provocative artworks, Kissing Coppers was stencilled onto the wall of Brighton’s Prince Albert pub in 2004. Similar to works such as Spy Booth, the policemen have had a tortured history, with the mural being defaced multiple times, and, like Mobile Lovers, eventually removed, protected and then sold by the pub’s owner in order to prevent further vandalism. This piece of Banksy art for sale went for $575,000 at an auction in Miami ten years later when the owner sold it in order to keep his pub open – a decision which itself created some controversy.
Kissing Coppers arguably offers a dual commentary on both the perception of homosexuality in British culture as potentially incongruous with the typically masculine role of constable while perhaps using this conflicted stance of two policemen embracing to undermine the position of law enforcement in society. However, the choice of the artwork’s location, Brighton, long the centre of British LGBTQ+ life, seems to point to the artwork as an (admittedly provocative) affirmation of homosexuality, dressed up, as it were, in the necessarily eye-catching stance of two cops kissing.
If you fancy a more colourful interpretation of Banksy’s Mobile Lovers, check out our pink canvas print or poster of the mural! If another colour suits your décor better, see the rest of our range of neon versions, including canvas or posters with green, blue or yellow backgrounds.