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Banksy. The man, the myth, the politics....

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Banksy is less of an artist than a global phenomenon. He’s the epitome of an anonymous graffiti superman whose identity is hotly debated by everyone from the man on the street to the Prime Minister.

Artistic director of London’s Maddox Gallery, Maeve Doyle said “He speaks for a generation”. She’s fascinated by the way Banksy has now been fully embraced by the establishment. “As with everything in the art world, counterculture eventually becomes mainstream,” she said. But such populism isn’t always a bad thing. “If you go to Mexico, mechanics will know who Banksy is,” Doyle then said, “It’s wonderful.”

Banksy's career is defined by risk, experimental pieces and daring playfulness. His stencil work and motifs,-rats, cops, and kids with balloons-have simply become part of modern-day culture, reproduced with abandon.

While it’s hard to whittle down just a few of his works that define his artwork, below is my selection of five pieces that capture the artist’s general look, feel and aesthetic.

Love is in the air - 'Flower Thrower' 2003

Banksy first painted this work in Jerusalem in 2003, painting it on the city’s West Bank barrier wall that segregates Israel from its Occupied Territories. The image-which has been ceaselessly replicated since-depicts a protestor sometimes referred to as The masked thug, caught in the act of throwing a bouquet of brightly coloured flowers and not a Molotov cocktail.

This is one of many artworks that Banksy has executed in favour of Palestinian rights, and his backing continues to cause controversy.

'Let them eat crack'

Banksy's enormous Street Rat: Let Them Eat Crack was created in 2008 in New York’s Soho neighbourhood. The huge artwork, which took up most of the side of the New York building, was created with a permit obtained from the city of New York.

The Bristol artist took on Marie Antoinette’s quote “Let them eat cake,” which was referencing French peasants. Banksy being Banksy put his particular spin on it instead, that being 'Let them eat crack'. This was voicing what he felt were the views of Wall Street towards the middle and lower classes.

'Migrant Birds'

This Banksy stencil art was removed by Clacton Council after a complaint of racism. The piece showed a cluster of pigeons holding anti-immigration banners and was deemed too controversial and open for misinterpretation to remain.

The work, in the seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea, was a key political hot-spot as a by-election was to take place following the local MP’s defection to UKIP, a political party noted for their anti-immigration policies.

'Girl With Balloon'

Banksy’s 'Girl With Balloon' is an instantly recognisable piece of street artwork from the artist. The original work depicts a young girl losing a heart-shaped balloon to a gust of wind. There is also a small quote scratched into the staircase that states, “There is always hope"...

'Kissing Coppers'

'Kissing Coppers' is a life-size black-and-white street work of two policemen kissing. It was sold to an anonymous buyer in Miami for $575,000 (£345,000) in 2011.

Spray-painted on to the side of the Prince Albert pub in Trafalgar Street near Brighton city centre in 2004, it has become one of Banksy’s most famous street works of all time.

So! There you have it! That's my view on my favourite 5 pieces of Banksy street art.


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