Whether or not you consider yourself to be an art aficionado, you have most likely heard of Banksy. The graffiti artist who made street art mainstream. He is also famous for being infamous. Despite being active since the 90’s, his identity remains a mystery to this day. Recently Banksy found himself the centre of media attention once again, when a piece of his artwork, ‘Girl With Balloon’, sold at auction for $1.4 million. As soon as the hammer had fallen on the sale, the piece began to shred itself, using a hidden shredder inside the frame. Over the years, many of his pieces have caused a great deal of controversy. Here, we take a look at some of his most controversial works to date.
Love Is In The Bin
On October 5th 2018, at Sotheby’s Auction House, a crowd looked on in horror, as the Banksy piece ‘Girl With Balloon’, began to shred itself. The piece had just been sold for $1.4 million, and it is now thought, that the half shredded piece is now worth an awful lot more than that. Art critics have said that this was a commentary on the fact that that art is being chocked to death by money. The decadence and hedonism of the art world is completely contrary to what lies at the heart of street art.
The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil
This piece of art was found in a thrift store in NYC during Banksy’s New York residency. Titled ‘The Banality of the Banality of Evil’, it is a piece that Banksy purchased from the same thrift store and vandalized, (Banksy’s own words) It depicts a Nazi sitting on a bench, gazing at an American landscape. It was then re-donated to the thrift store. The title of the piece suggests that this is a sardonic commentary on how evil often dwells in the mundane.
Rage, Flower Thrower
This piece is probably one of Banksy’s best known ones. It is located in Jerusalem and is now covered by a sheet of protective perspex. It is thought that the image is a response to an attack that happened in Jerusalem in 2005. During a gay pride parade, violent homophobic protestors stabbed three people to death, and injured many more. The vibrant colours of the flowers, in stark contrast to the monochromatic rioter, could possibly represent the gay pride colours.
Pest Control – Bankus Militus Vandalus
In 2004 an employee of the Natural History Museum in London noticed something strange as he was walking around the museum. This little taxidermy rat, complete with all of the tools of a graffiti artist, had been installed overnight without anyone’s knowledge. It remained in place for two hours before finally being removed. The piece has been shown at other exhibitions since, and has a small inscription underneath it which reads: “Recently discovered specimens of the common sewer rat have shown some remarkable new characteristics. Attributed to an increase in junk food waste, ambient radiation and hardcore urban rap music these creatures have evolved at an unprecedented rate. Termed the Banksus Militus Vandalus, they are impervious to all modern methods of pest control, and mark their territory with a series of elaborate signs. Professor B. Langford of University College London states: You can laugh now… but one day they may be in charge.”
Banksy At The West Bank Wall
In 2005 Banksy went to Palestine. While there, he managed to create 9 different illustrations on the controversial West Bank Wall, without detection. The wall is extremely heavily guarded so this must have been no mean feat. The West Bank Wall separates Palestine and Israel and is 425 miles long. The pieces he painted are provocative and striking. Whilst in the middle of creating one of the pieces, Banksy was approached by an old Palestinian man. The man told him that his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, but the man responded with: “We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.” The paintings were designed to highlight the fact that the wall is considered illegal under United Nations rulings. Banksy has said that the wall: “Essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison.”
In one of his many public stunts, Banksy notoriously printed one million pounds worth of what he termed: ‘Di-Faced Tenners’. In them he replaced the Queen’s head with Princess Diana’s. The counterfeit cash also had the words ‘Banksy of England’, in stead of ‘Bank of England’, and ‘I Promise to Pay the Bearer on Demand the Ultimate Price’ printed on it. The back of the note had an image of Charles Darwin along with the slogan: ‘Trust No One.’ The notes were scattered at the Santa’s Ghetto Exhibition, The Reading Festival and at the Notting Hill Carnival. This act was hugely controversial due to the notorious rivalry between the people’s princess, Diana, and the Queen. It’s also, obviously, illegal to produce counterfeit currency.
Guantanamo Bay Prisoner At Disneyland
In conjunction with fellow artist Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash, Banksy famously shut Disneyland down completely, with his installation of this piece. The two artists placed a life-sized, inflatable dummy of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad inside the park.The piece was a response to the controversial detention of hundreds of terror suspects at the American naval base in Cuba.
Dismaland – Banksy’s ‘Bemusement Park’
In one of his most controversial and verbose statements, Banksy opened his own theme park, or a ‘bemusement park’, as he refers to it. Dismaland is a dystopian version of Disneyland in Weston-super-Mare in the UK. Visitors to the park will find three art galleries and a number of interactive and mesmeric experiences. There are also a number of bizarre and insidious looking fairground rides. When asked about his inspiration in creating Dismaland, Banksy said: “It’s a theme park whose big theme is – theme parks should have bigger themes.” It is widely accepted that the whole experience is a critique on consumerism, one of Banksy’s well known bugbears.