Elusive and controversial: Banksy's new paintings honour Black Lives Matter

From BLM to climate crisis, UK's controversial artist continues to amaze with political artwork


DW June 17, 2020

Throughout history, art and politics have continuously been intertwined due to the former's role in forming the society’s cultural identity.

Acclaimed Graffiti artist and political activist, Banksy, is known for combining his dark political humor with unique and extraordinary stenciling technique to create powerful artworks that respond to contemporary societal and political issues, according to Guyhepner.

Banksy is also among the most controversial street artists on the modern global stage, with his most famous pieces being Stop and Search (2007), Girl with Balloon and 'Bomb Hugger'.

Here are some of his most recent works of art as compiled by DW that appeared during the climate change protests and Black lives matter movement:

A statement on systemic racism

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A vigil candle sets fire to the US flag: Banksy has revealed on Instagram a new painting commenting on George Floyd's killing and honoring the Black Lives Matter movement. "People of color are being failed by the system. The white system," the artist wrote. "This is a white problem. And if white people don't fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in," he added.

The superheroes of the coronavirus pandemic

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Spiderman and Batman are the yesterday's superheroes: this little boy prefers to play with a nurse wearing a face mask and a cape. With this picture revealed at the beginning of May 2020, Banksy paid tribute to the outstanding contribution of doctors, nurses and hospital workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ready for takeoff?

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In December 2019, Banksy posted a video showing his mural of reindeer taking off -but instead of Santa's sleigh in tow, it's a man lying on a bench, aimed to draw attention to the plight of the homeless. "God bless Birmingham," the artist wrote. "In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hotdrink, two chocolate bars and a lighter - without him ever asking for anything."drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter - without him ever asking for anything."

'Devolved Parliament' — Made in Britain

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Famous, but elusive street artist Banksy created in 2009 "Devolved Parliament," featuring chimps instead of politicians in the British Parliament. Amid the chaos caused by Brexit, the work embodies the country's political atmosphere. The 2.8 x 4.5-meter (around 9 x 15-foot) painting was auctioned off in London in October 2019 for 9.8 million pounds (around €11 million).

And it's half gone...

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Another auction at Sotheby's in London also caused a huge stir. Just after Banksy's painting "Girl with Balloon" was sold for 1 million pounds (then 1.2 million euros) in 2018, it began to self-destruct as a shredder was hidden in the lower part of the frame, but it did not complete the process. It morphed into "Love is in the Bin." The motif first appeared in 2002 as a mural in London.

On show rather than at auction

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The millions of pounds that "Devolved Parliament" reaped in October also sparked criticism, with no information about the buyer provided. Likewise in October, Banksy installed artwork in a closed shop in London as a commentary, saying that artworks at auction had become the property of the rich rather being the common property of people at large.

The World of Banksy

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Banksy is one of the most famous street artists in the world, yet his true identity remains under wraps. Paintings or drawings on paper are rare creations of his. Instead, the British artist sprays most of his works anonymously on buildings, walls, and demolition ruins. Such street art is not for sale.

Steve Jobs

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A recurring theme in his works is the predatory nature of global capitalism. Banksy sprayed this mural in the entrance area of the refugee camp in Calais, southern England. Depicted is the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, carrying his legendary first Mac computer. The father of the Apple director hailed from Syria.

A statement about Brexit

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Banksy addressed the Brexit debate in the UK with this work back in 2017. Overnight, this picture appeared on the wall of a house not far from the ferry port in Dover ferry port: It shows a man standing on a ladder trying to remove one of the EU stars with a hammer and chisel. The image has meanwhile disappeared from the wall, with someone having whitewashed it.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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The British street artist has also addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2017, Banksy opened The Walled Off Hotel, an actual hotel featuring his artworks, in Bethlehem right next to the controversial Israeli West Bank barrier. The artist has also left quite a few of his artworks throughout this historic town since 2005, drawing many tourists on a "Banksy Tour."

War is not a child's game

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One known fact about Banksy's identity is that the world-famous artist comes from Bristol in southern England. He moved on to London at the end of the 1990s and began to spray his pictorial messages onto the walls of selected locations. Here, he was back in Bristol in 2016, leaving behind a mural at a English primary school in Whitchurch.

Global climate crisis

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As an artist, Banksy has always been a visionary. In his wall works, he has often addressed the political problems of the future, such as global warming, as shown here. He created this sprayed message in London in 2009 — long before US President Trump announced this sentence in all seriousness.

Criticism of the media

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Banksy has also denounced the brutalization of the media, which jumps onto the bandwagon of sensationalism with regard to war and terrorist attack victims. This is depicted in this work entitled "Media at war," which, like some of his other works, has not been sprayed onto a building wall, making it possible to exhibit it in a gallery, such as here in London in 2018.

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