Banksy is an anonymous street artist who creates satirical and politically based art with a touch of dark humor.
In today’s society, there’s a lot of discourse surrounding art ownership. Does the art belong to the artist once it has been mass-produced and sold in the form of merchandise? Personally, I have always appreciated Banksy’s combination of art and political statement in a form that is frowned upon by the law. The graffiti that Banksy creates is a form of protest against the institutions that restrict expression and freedom, and his latest political showcase is no exception.
Banksy has destroyed the case that art can be bought, quite literally, by shredding one of his most famous pieces of art. ‘Girl With Balloon’ was a mural created by Banksy in 2002 in London’s West Bank, depicting a girl letting go of a heart shaped balloon. The mural is claimed to be one of Banksy’s most universal pieces of street art as it resonates hope, an emotion that everyone can relate to. More recently, the image has been used to support Syrian refuges, making the image ever politically relevant. The mural was auctioned off and sold for a little over £1 million, and moments after a hidden shredder built inside of the frame was activated, culminating in the painting being damaged in the auction house. The stunt could be seen to critique how artists lose ownership of their work when it becomes something to be sold, rather than to be enjoyed and understood.
The destruction of the piece doesn’t appear to have negatively affected the price of the artwork; in fact the new owner of the piece has seen a hefty increase in its value, now £1.042 million. Speculators have presented the idea that this political stunt can only have a positive impact upon Banksy’s career, sales will inevitably increase and Banksy will be ever popular in the nation’s eyes.
Banksy is no stranger to causing controversy as a result of his artwork; he combats many politically important issues in his imagery. One example of this is ‘Reverse Pat Down’. This piece of street art tackles the issue of police brutality; the role reversal of the young girl patting down the soldier highlights the discourse of pat downs and police brutality.
Pushing boundaries is something that Banksy is famed for and one way he does this is placing artwork in noteworthy locations. An excellent example of this is Banksy’s Peckham Rock, displaying a caveman scene with a shopping trolley, complete with its own information card. The piece first appeared in the British Museum in 2005 and was sat for 3 days before any staff noticed that its didn’t belong in the exhibit. Currently, Peckham Rock is on loan and back at the British Museum. It is now being featured in Ian Hislop’s exhibition, Hislop claims that his exhibition illustrates tales of satire and subversion, fitting Banksy and his artwork down to a T.
Another aspect of modern society that Banksy appears to critique through his street art is social media and how it impacts the public’s mental health. The ‘Comment Heart Request’ highlights how social media sites have a massive influence over our lives, how we view our self worth and image by depicting an Instagram style like, comment and follow icons and a child crying because they are zero.
Banksy leaves no stone unturned in his piece ‘A New Meaning’, one of his most controversial pieces. Jesus is depicted on the cross, but his hands are not empty, they are filled with shopping bags. I believe this piece critiques the Christmas holiday period and how it seems to have lost its original meaning. Society has forgotten that Christmas is a religious holiday and instead focuses on material gain and what to write down on their wish lists.
Banksy reveals the uglier side to modern society in his street art. Each new piece of art critiques a different aspect of society, whether its social media, materialism or politics. By no means is Banksy finished creating controversial art and I’m looking forward to the next debate-provoking piece of street art.