- Russ Ramsey
For this Art Wednesday we’ll look at the fascinating, subversive work of the artist who goes by the pseudonym Banksy. His anonymity is vital because much of his work is graffiti, which is illegal.
Banksy, Girl with Heart Balloon, 2002
This Banksy mural critiques the reluctance of the Western world to deal with global issues such as poverty and other issues if inequality.
Banksy, Sweep it Under the Carpet, 2006
Banksy did a graffiti installation in Bethlehem, which included this mural of a protestor or rioter throwing not a Molotov cocktail, but flowers.
Banksy, Love is in the Air: Flower Thrower, 2005, Mural in Bethlehem
Painted on the side of an office building in London’s West End, this mural shows a woman falling from the top of a building, clutching her shopping trolley. He was critiquing the perils of consumerism. Ironically, if a Banksy appears on your building now, it’s a little like winning the lottery.
Banksy, Shop Until You Drop, 2011
Ilona Polinovsky wrote, “The graffiti portrays a young girl searching an armed, uniformed soldier who has his hands against the wall. The image depicts how violated human rights are in many countries and how abusive it is for innocent children to be searched by soldiers on a daily basis. By switching the roles of a girl and a soldier, Banksy ridicules the absurdity of any child having to go through hostility and suspicion.”
Banksy, Girl Frisking Soldier, 2007
Banksy was highly critical of capitalism—showing here how it damages even faith: the reason for the birth of Christ is lost in the craze of buying presents.
Banksy, Consumer Shopping Christ, 2004
Offered as a critique of racist attitudes toward immigrants (the bird being yelled at is the most beautifully colorful bird in the scene), the English town where this mural appeared mistook it as racist and painted over it within 48 hours, not knowing it was a Banksy.
Banksy, Migrants, 2014
My favorite Banksy story took place when a copy of Girl with Balloon sold at a Sothesby’s auction in 2018 for 1.4 million pounds. Soon after the gavel went down, a shredding device Banksy built into the frame began to shred the image, jamming half way before the scraps could fall onto the floor. Here’s a video of that happening in real time.