Artist English Scandal of the month

Shelley’s Art Scandal: The Enigma that is Banksy

We have all at least heard the name Banksy and are probably all familiar with the controversial stencilled stylings that are synonymous with his name; despite the fact that while there are speculations of who he is, we don’t know for definite who he is.

Love is in the Bin” Sotheby Auction 2018

Banksy cemented his name in the art history books earlier this year, through the shredding of “Balloon Girl” while it was being auctioned at Sotheby’s. The picture went in to self-destruct mode as there was a hidden paper shredder in the frame which (if you believe what the artist said about it) was set up to destroy the painting should it ever go to auction.  The picture was only half-shredded, and the winning bidder still continued the purchase of the piece, which they later then found had increased the value from £1.4 million to over £2 million and earned the piece its new name “Love is in the Bin”.

Now, whether you feel that this was a rebellious act against the bureaucracy of the art world, or you are more inclined to feel that this was a stunt to get his name into newspapers, you can’t help but admire the confidence in which Banksy executes his message.

Banksy has always displayed political messages and social commentaries through his art and has managed to keep his anonymity while becoming a household name – which is no easy task, but he has a habit of causing controversy through his actions.

In 2006, Banksy put together an exhibition in Los Angeles entitled “Barely Legal”, among the pieces was a mocked-up living room with a live elephant which had been painted to look like wallpaper, playing on the old adage “the elephant in the room” in attempt to draw attention to world poverty and how it is all too often looked over. Controversy rose as concerns for the elephants well being were raised, and while a permit had been sought to have the elephant in the exhibition, animal rights groups put Banksy and the LA Animal Services Department under fire.  The paint used was nontoxic, but it was still felt that the elephant was being mistreated, much to the upset of the elephant’s owners “Have Trunk will Travel”, who maintained that the elephant – Tai, was well looked after and in no distress.  An order was issued to have Tai scrubbed clean and children’s face paints could be used instead, but the elephant appeared with no paint on the last day of the exhibition.  Officials had wanted to revoke the permit entirely, but the paperwork would have taken 5 days to go through their processes by which point the exhibition would have been over.

Barely Legal – 2006 Los Angeles

It’s hard to cover all of the works which Banksy has created that has caused a stir throughout his career to date, from altered English bank notes from the face of the Queen to Princess Diana, to the satirical creation of “Dismaland” highlighting the escapism of theme parks and how this was much truer to life, than perhaps it’s similarly named counterparts.

With this in mind, there is one more piece that I will cover in this article, which was created in 2015 and appeared in Calais, titled “The Son of a Migrant from Syria”.  This piece came about during the migrant crisis caused by the Syrian war, seeing many fleeing Syria and its surrounding areas and culminating in a refugee camp nicknamed “The Jungle”.  Banksy had donated parts of Disamland to help create shelters in the camp, but he also revealed artworks which he had done in a statement of how he felt about the crisis.  In a rare statement from Banksy is was quoted to have said:-

“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7bn a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”

Critics slammed this statement, as it was misinterpreted that Banksy was indicating that we should help the refugees because they may be the next Steve Jobs bringing us the next iPhone, rather than people who should have basic human rights, and a better process to help them through displacement due to war.  Some saw this as a misguided but valiant effort in bringing the worlds attention to the crisis in hand.

I think we can all agree that Banksy, through his art, can easily grab the attention of the masses, and while you may believe that these are all stunts to highlight his own name, it is undeniable that his work starts difficult conversations and draws attention to the matters in hand despite the controversy which may be caused around it.

To play on another old adage – you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs – I think it is fair to say Banksy gets his message across by hook or by crook, leaving the world with his unique stylings and clear political messages.

“How do you like your Eggs?” Banksy 2011

Come back next month to learn more about scandalous and controversial artworks and artists.

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