“The worst crimes are committed not by those who break the rules. But by those who follow them eagerly”.
No one really knows who he is.
Maybe he doesn’t even exist.
Some people suggest that several influential artists are hidden under the Banksy name.
Banksy (presumably born in 1973) gives his own comments on his incognito position : “If you want to be heard, you better wear a mask when speaking”.
His words contradict the familiar world view. Indeed, in this era of smartphones and social networks, almost everyone showcases their lives.
And being Mr. X in this kind of world turns out to be the best way to attract attention. And people really “hear” him.
And the artist finds an extremely eloquent way to “speak” to us.
I suggest that you should look at 10 of the most outstanding of his works and to understand what he wants to “tell” us.
1. A Girl With a Balloon. 2002.
A Girl With a Balloon is the most popular work by Banksy. And it became well-known before it was destroyed at the Sotheby’s auction.
For the first time, this graffiti appeared in South Bank area in London in 2002.
Probably, this is the only artist’s work, whose meaning is not known for sure.
A heart-shaped balloon is carried away from a girl by a gust of wind. She is upset, but too calm in NO childish manner. In short, she took her loss philosophically.
A common child would be crying and stamping her feet with annoyance.
The artist himself gave lengthy comments on this work: “When this happens, just leave quietly”.
Which means that he tells us to withstand our losses steadfastly, without strains and hysteria.
Probably, in 2002 he went through his own loss, and this painting expresses some personal experience.
And since we know nothing about the artist, we cannot “read” it to the end.
In this case, everyone chooses what to see in it: hope for the better, discontent with our children growing up too fast or importance of being courageous when facing any difficulties.
This image has become especially popular after an incredible incident.
As early as in 2006, Banksy created the author’s paper copy of the “Girl” using acrylic paints. He inserted it into a gilded frame. Such frames are used for Rembrandt. And sold.
And in 2018, this work was put up for bidding. And when the hammer hit for the third time with the words heard: “And 1 million 400 thousand – three! Sold!” – the painting… self-destroyed! Well, almost…
Two-thirds of the paper with the painting was cut into thin stripes by a… shredder inbuilt in the frame.
It turned out that 12 years ago, Banksy was the one to build it into the frame. He expected that one day his painting will be sold at an auction and all he pull have to do is to press a button.
I see all this from the following point of view. In our world, the value of material benefits substantially decreases. We throw things away easily and change clothes every season. Now, the time for works of art has come. And Banksy was NOT the first me to start it.
As early as n the 1960s, artists created lots of paintings using acrylic paints. And they are nondurable and have already drastically faded.
Not to mention Warhol’s silk screen printing: museum workers have no more ideas how to save these works. These are no way oil paints that are almost eternal.
Thus, Banksy has just defined the problem: in 500 years, descendants will unlikely be able to see our art alive. There will be just nothing left of it.
2. Consumer hook. 2006.
Just like “Girl with a Balloon”, Banksy used acrylic paint to create this work in 2006.
It is clear that in this painting the artist is extremely ironic about a consumer’ mind. About those who treat sales with almost religious awing.
Here, Banksy plays on the brink of blasphemy and humor, since he chose the images of Jesus’ loved ones, mourning him at the cross. And put them in front of the “Sale ends today” poster.
Well, the artist has no mercy on us. He puts it clearly that a rat race goods becomes the main reason for being. When people almost pray for brands.
3. Sweeping This Under the Carpet. 2006.
A girl in dressed as a maid is sweeping rubbish under the wall. For the firs time, one of the Banksy’s most popular works appeared on the wall of a Gallery in West London in the same 2006.
The artist plays with a metaphor: instead of solving too inconvenient problems, the government just hides them “under the carpet”, since they will affect the reputation of those in power as soon as they become public.
It is difficult to say which exactly problems Banksy had in mind. I can only guess that as early as in 2006, signs of a coming global financial crisis appeared. But no one spoke clearly about a forthcoming collapse.
4. Zebra Stripes Washing. 2008.
This work is interesting not only because of its meaning, but by an extremely successful image choice as well. A woman is hanging for drying just washed stripes of a … zebra!
It is curious, of course. What is surprising is that this work of Banksy is little known. Probably, because of its location. It appeared in 2008 in a settlement in Mali (West Africa).
There are only few photos of this work. Most likely, it has been destroyed long ago. Just because the residents of this half-abandoned settlement have hardly heard anything about Banksy.
So what is the artist’s message?
It’s immediately becomes clear that people of Mali are facing great problems with water.
Meanwhile, the woman in the picture is wasting it. She spends it on the flat nonsense – is washing zebra stripes.
Thus, the artist hints at how easy it is for people from Europe and North America to get water. And how badly people on the African continent need it.
We are used to living in a world of abundance. And some people lack everything in this world, even common water.
5. Mobile Lovers.2014.
Banksy left this graffiti the door of Broad Plains Boys club in Bristol. Here, boys go in for boxing after school instead of hanging out in the street.
Perhaps, once Banksy also used to visit this club. The fact that the artist was born and raised in the English city of Bristol is probably the only known fact from his biography.
The meaning of the work is obvious. In the era of social networks and smartphones, virtual communication replaces real communication.
At the same time, the artist makes the problem even more acute: dependence on online communication is so strong that it can even distract people in love from a kiss! As they say, there is the limit.
This work is interesting not only because of its meaning, but by its history as well.
At the time when Banksy painted these graffiti, the youth club was on the edge of being closed. Its owner took off the door from the hinges and brought it into the club. He wanted to charge a small fee showing the work to let the club exist.
the city authorities confiscated the door and placed it to a museum. The club owner turned out to be a brave man and sued the city mayor!
All this fuss went on until Banksy intervened. In a letter to the club owner, he wrote that he wanted to help his center. Therefore, he insisted that the work should belong to him, but not to the city.
The club owner sold the door with the painting by Banksy for 400 thousand pounds. The youth center was saved.
As good as modern Robin Hood 🙂
6. Steve Jobs Refugee. 2015.
Banksy painted Steve Jobs in the suburbs of the French city of Calais. He depicted the billionaire in his iconic black turtleneck. He is holding a knapsack behind his back, and an old model of an Apple computer in his hand.
The painting appeared among the tents of Syrian refugees. In the camp for those, who are waiting whether they will be allowed to live in the EU countries or will be sent home.
Why is Steve Jobs portrayed as a refugee?
The case is that Jobs’s father is an emigrant from Syria.
Thus, the artist’s message is addressed to those who consider emigrants to be strangers who can harm their countries.
But people should think for a moment: if once Steve Jobs’s father had not been allowed to the United States, there would have been no Apple and no several billion of taxes. To say nothing of thousands of job opportunities that appeared thanks to… the son of an emigrant.
7. A Kitten in the Gaza Strip. 2015.
In 2015 in the Gaza Strip, an image of a cute kitten with a pink bow appeared on a destroyed wall.
The contrast turned out to be incredible. A kitten on the back of ruins.
The life of Gaza people couldn’t be worse. During 8 hours a day they have electricity turned off. 90% of water from wells is not suitable for drinking. I’m not talking about thousands of people who died under shellfire.
A piece of this long-suffering land is surrounded by a fence: almost no one is let out. The residents have no opportunity to work in neighboring countries.
Attempts made by international sponsors to link this land with the surrounding world have failed. Construction of a port and an airport that has just begun was stopped by shellfire.
Only trucks carrying humanitarian aid, such as food and soap, are allowed inside this sector. Everything else is prohibited. Even building materials! And it’s simply impossible to rebuild the destroyed buildings .
And the worst thing is that more than half of the population are children. Here, birth rate is extremely high as in any poor country. And there is almost nothing to feed children.
This is a prison, a huge children’s prison. Those who were unlucky to be born here fell into this trap.
And amidst this prison, the Banksy’s Kitten suddenly appears.
The artist again criticizes us with no regret.
People are obsessed with watching cats. While there is such a horrible place in the world.
So, you are free to admire a cat in the middle of this hell. But there is a hope that one day you will look around.
8. “Brexit”. 2017
In 2017, a huge mural with the European Union flag appeared in Dover. The worker is knocking down one of 12 stars so that cracks are spreading all over the flag.
A year before, 51.9% of UK citizens voted for their country to exit from the EU. Obviously, Banksy decided to be among those 48.1% who were against the exit.
And again the artist has found an extremely successful place for his work. His huge mural is located near a port in the English Channel.
Dover city by the English Channel is located next to France. When the weather is fine, one can even see the neighbor’s coastline. The countries are close, but decided to live far away from each other.
At the same time, I wonder how Banksy managed to create such a grand-scale work. After all, any actions of street artists are considered illegal. Therefore, they have to create very quickly.
Obviously, he used a rope to go down from the roof. Perhaps, he was not alone. Of course, he used stencil plates like n other works. But you must admit, still it was risky.
Just like Impressionists, he had only 15-30 minutes to create. However, the former had a goal of catching the special light. Banksy has a time limit, since he is in danger of being caught. Well, he managed it this time as well.
9. Merry Christmas. 2018.
At the end of 2018, a painting showing a boy appeared on a wall of a common garage in a small town of Port Talbot (Wales). A happy child is catching snowflakes with his mouth.
But when you look around the corner, you see … the next part of the work. And you immediately understand that it’s not snow that is flying on the child, but ash from a burning trash bin!
This time, Banksy decided to speak about ecology. And, as usual he has chosen a perfect place to do this, which ideally suits the message.
In the town, there is a steel plant that covers it with grey ashes from time to time. It’s easy to see smoking pipes not far from this garage.
It is of interest that the garage owner sold this work to a collector for 100 thousand pounds. But under the condition that the work will remain in the city.
Perhaps, it will be able to change the life of the town for the better. And this “snow” in the town will eventually stop.
As you understand, Banksy has made no profit from this work either. After all, the building does not belong to him. And he does not bother about the income from selling his work being earned by another person.
Such an easy attitude to money is captivating, don’t you agree?
10. Rat in a Clock. 2018.
In 2018, Banksy panted a running rat inside the clock on a Manhattan building.
In general, the rat image is rather common for the artist.
One day, Banksy told a funny story.
One of his friends noticed that rat is an original anagram to “art”. After all, both words consist of the same letters.
Banksy had to pretend that he knew about it all his life. It’s a kind of a confession. Well, the artist may be ironic about himself as well.
In addition, he had got another reason to draw rats.
At the beginning, this unpleasant rodent was more a symbol of illegal art.
But I think that this rat has another symbolic meaning. Especially in combination with clock.
This is the symbol of the rat race! After all, this metaphor is true for many people ‘ lives. Well, in some countries, a comparison with a squirrel in a wheel is more common.
But in general, it’s about marking time . When living according to “home – work – home” scheme does not allow us to take a step aside, to say nothing of moving forward. And there are a lot of office workers living on the rat race principle in Manhattan.
Now, the clock was removed by the building owners. They want to sell i. City authorities are against. City residents are also for the watch being returned. Who knows, maybe Banksy will intervene here as well.
To conclude: what is the secret of Banksy’s success?
It’s not for nothing that Banksy has attracted everyone’s attention.
The vast majority of graffiti painters wrote their names or the companies’ names in hard-to-read letters. Banksy was going another way.
He painted easily readable images dedicated to acute social and political subjects.
Any passerby, can easily read his painting when seeing it. And still have time to laugh at an ironic image.
It seems strange to me that some people consider him to be a common vandal, whose place is in prison.
Of course, it funny but he brought art back to where it once began. On the walls.
Once it was the cave walls. Now – the buildings walls. And no “third parties” such as museums between the viewer and the painting.
Banksy believes that “it is easier to ask to forgive than for permission”, when he creates his works, WITHOUT asking for permission.
But I think that he does not need to ask to forgive him either. After all, he makes the world a better place. Please go on creating, brave Banksy!
Authour: Oksana Kopenkina