“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty, you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss”
Banksy is a muralist above and beyond any other art forms. He started to paint murals since his very early years as an artist, and never stopped… Banksy’s first and most important canvas is the street and it is with no doubt the most powerful one.
He created some of the most iconic murals and visuals such as Girl with Balloon and Flower Thrower. He travelled the world and left his art in a very astute and witty manner, always in locations that are carefully chosen, with messages often addressing the issues of the moment…
It is hard to know how many murals Banksy has created so far, as most of them disappear within 24 hours… However, the artist has been documenting most of them since the very early years. For example, his self-published books and thereafter Wall and Piece contain hundreds of pictures of Banksy‘s stencils. This question almost becomes irrelevant once one realizes the message stays and impacts the world in so many ways…
In this section, we will pretend we live in a world where street art is considered as an art form and is preserved. We will voluntarily only show the works the way they have been painted.
Sadly, the reality is other, and most of those amazing artworks have been defaced, destroyed, or have simply disappeared… Murals are not meant to stay anyway…
We will only highlight a few murals below, this blog will be regularly updated and completed.
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”
1. THE ICONS
Girl With Balloon is perhaps Banksy’s most notable and iconic work, demonstrating the graffiti stencil technique he has become renowned for. A 2017 public poll ranked Girl with Balloon as the UK’s number one favorite artwork.
Girl with Balloon appeared for the first time as a mural on Waterloo Bridge, in South Bank, London. This striking visual was accompanied by the quotation “There is always hope”.
Well loved by the public and collectors alike, her heartbreaking gesture reaches out to all of us making this one of the most recognizable artworks of the 21st century.
Girl with Balloon, Waterloo Bridge, South Bank, London, 2002
The work depicts a young girl, whose hair and dress are blowing in the wind, reaching for (or releasing) a red, heart-shaped balloon that has slipped from her grasp. The red balloon, as the only spot of color, is an archetypal symbol of childhood and freedom many of us connect with. More than a simple child’s toy, it evokes fragility of what it stands for: innocence, dreams, hope and love.
Love Is In The Air, also known as the Flower Thrower or LIITA, first appeared in 2003 as a large format stenciled graffiti in Jerusalem shortly after the construction of the West Bank Wall. The graffiti was made on the 760km wall that separates Palestine from Israel.
Spanning 760km, the wall, as Banksy put it, “essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison”. The wall rapidly became a giant canvas for paintings and writings protesting against its construction.
Love Is In the Air, Ash Salon Street, Bethlehem, West Bank
Love Is In The Air has now become one of the most iconic Banksy’s stencils, and the artist has produced numerous versions for unique works on canvas and print with various colorways.
2. BRISTOL EARLY MURALS
Even though most of Banksy‘s early murals have disappeared a long time ago, the artist had already documented them in the few books he self-published and released.
Banksy‘s first known large wall mural was The Mild Mild West, painted in 1999 to cover advertising of a former solicitors’ office on Stokes Croft in Bristol. It depicts a teddy bear about to throw a Molotov cocktail at three riot police officers, in reference to a recent incident between police and some of Bristol youth earlier that year. It is one of the last early murals that are still intact today, and has become a major touristic attraction for the city.
Armed Clown, Bristol, 1998
Lenin on Roller Skates, Bristol, 1998
Bomb Hugger, Bristol, 1998
Leopard Chasing Policemen, Bristol, 1999
Monkey Detonator, Bristol, 1999
CCTV Cameras, Bristol, 1999
Precision Bombing, Bristol, 1999
3. LONDON EARLY MURALS
Banksy moved from Bristol to London somewhere in the end of 1999. Those early years are very prolific for the artist who left a lot of works in the streets of London. Just a few are shown below.
Policeman with Dog, Rivington Street, London, 2001
Rat Chopper, London, 2001
Monkey Detonator, London, 2001
Radar Rat, London, 2001
His Master’s Voice was first tagged on the streets of Banksy’s hometown of Bristol. Then in 2003, the artist used the stencil on the walls of the courtyard of the Cargo nightclub in London, this time with a colorful background consisting of undefined yellow and orange forms.
Cargo, a well-known venue on Rivington Street in the middle of Shoreditch, in London, is built inside an old railway tunnel showcasing murals from many urban artists. Acclaimed as a local masterpiece, Banksy’s work has been protected by perspex for about 15 years now and crowds still gather to see it.
Pulp Fiction depicts a famous scene from the iconic Quentin Tarantino‘s movie. It appeared in 2002 as a large stenciled mural in London, near Old Street tube station. It was visible until 2007, until Transport for London painted over the wall, on the grounds that the work lent an atmosphere of social decay and neglect in the capital, despite the well-known drawing art fans and tourists to the area…
The iconic image used by Banksy featured the actors John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in the starring roles from the film, with their guns pointed at a figure offscreen. But, in Banksy‘s version, guns are replaced with bananas. A humorous twist used to make a strong statement against violence and guns.
4. The Segregation Wall (2005)
“Palestine is now the world’s largest open-air prison
and the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti artists.”
Banksy visited Palestine as early as in August 2005 and painted seven large murals on the newly erected West Bank barrier.Banksy’s feelings about the barrier are made explicit in a statement which says the wall “essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open prison.”
On Banksy’s website, readers are reminded that Israel’s 425-mile-long West Bank barrier, separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, is considered illegal by the United Nations.
Banksy portrayed many kids on those murals illustrating how this is impacting an entire generation of innocent children who are ending up living their lives with a giant cement wall.
5. UK Murals (2004-2008)
Kissing Coppers portrays two British policeman kissing. It was originally unveiled on the wall of the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton in 2004.
The two police officers are painted in black and white. Both individuals are shown in full uniform with evident handcuffs and a baton around their respective belts. This portrayal of same-sex intimacy is a common feature of art dating as far back as the 16th century in Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling.
Naked Man Hanging From Window, also called Naked Man, or Well Hung Lover is located on a wall in Frogmore Street, Bristol, England, and remains one of the most iconic Banksy murals in his home-town. It is still visible and is a major touristic attraction…
Naked Man Hanging From Window, Frogmore Street, Bristol
This now iconic Banksy mural shows a man hanging from a window after his clandestine affair looks set to be discovered by his mistress’s husband. With typical Banksy‘sirony, it was daubed on the side of a sexual health clinic in Frogmore Street, although according to the clinic’s director in the book “Home Sweet Home“, when Banksy was told this by email, he responded to say that hadn’t realized it was a sexual health clinic and thought it was funny.
In the last few years, the graffiti was unfortunately vandalized with blue paint, but it remains there to this day, albeit in the vandalized state.
Sweep it Under the Carpet appeared on a wall on Chalk Farm Road, North London in 2006. It portrays a woman dressed as a maid who is sweeping dirt under the cover of a brick wall.
The work is said to represent the reluctance of the Western world to deal with global issues such as poverty, or other issues dear to Banksy. Those red bricks have been painted on the white wall of the White Cube gallery. The gallery let the painting stay for a while but eventually removed it.
One Nation Under CCTV appeared in 2007 on Newman Street in London, painted on the wall of a building used by the Royal Mail. It depicts a child in a red hooded top painting “ONE NATION UNDER CCTV”, while being watched by a police officer and a dog. The mural was situated adjacent to a CCTV camera.
In 2008, the Westminster City Council ordered the removal of the work on the grounds that it was an unlicensed commercial.
This was one of Banksy’s largest mural done. It is still a mystery how the artist could manage to paint it as it necessitated 3 stores of scaffolding (behind a security fence), seemingly under the surveillance of a CCTV camera, which was positioned just to the right of this shot. The message of the graffiti is heavily ironic, given the context.
Yellow Lines Flower Painter, created in 2007, is located in Benthal Green. This mural, painted on the side of a working man’s club at the corner of Pollard Row and Pollard Street, shows a painter in overalls whose job is to paint yellow lines on the pavement, taking a break after painting double yellow lines that turn into a large yellow flower on a wall.
Not long after, authorities removed the double yellow lines running across the pavement, but left the painter and the flower on the wall as they were painted on private property.
Cash Machine Girlappeared in 2007, close to Exmouth Market in North London. This mural depicts a young girl being lifted by the eerie robotic arm emerging from a cash machine.
Consumerism and Capitalism are recurring themes in Banksy‘s oeuvre. This mural also appears to have a blatantly anti-capitalist message, warning passers-by about the corrupt power of banks and how you can easily become “kidnapped” by capital.
Very Little Helps, also known as Tesco Kids, appeared in 2008, on the side of a pharmacy, on Essex Road. This, now iconic Banksy mural, depicts a group of children pledging their allegiance to Tesco, a British supermarket chain. Two young children are saluting, while another child is raising a Tesco plastic bag on an electricity cable cleverly transformed into a flag pole.
Very Little Helps, even though covered in Perspex, has been “vandalized” several times and is partially damaged by added text, heads of children and the flag have been painted over. The image is a critique on society’s reliance on mass consumerism and multinational corporations. Banksy also released Very Little Helps as a screen-print in 2008, in a signed edition of 300.
6. The Cans Festival (May 2008)
In London, over the weekend of 3–5 May 2008, Banksy hosted an exhibition called The Cans Festival, on Leake Street, a road tunnel formerly used by Eurostar underneath London Waterloo Station. Graffiti artists with stencils were invited to join in and paint their own artwork, as long as it did not cover anyone else’s. Banksy invited artists from around the world to exhibit their works.
At that occasion Banksy created Cave Painting Removal portraying a man, most probably a city worker, who seems to be cleaning a wall covered with what appears to be some prehistoric drawings… Indeed the art appears to be some ancient cave paintings of warriors and various animals (horses, deer, bison), very much like the caves at Lascaux in France, now seen as a great treasure for humanity…
The immediate reaction of any viewer is of shock and horror, as this maintenance worker seems to be erasing priceless prehistorical art, whereas most probably he thinks he is only jet blasting over supposed graffiti. Indeed, graffiti is considered an act of vandalism, and there is a need to tidy up the urban scene.
7. New Orleans Murals (August 2008)
Banksy visited New Orleans, three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, in August 2008.The artist used the still-tattered urban fabric of New Orleans as an eloquent backdrop for his critiques of the situation and left around 15 stencils. Most of them have long disappeared but are still present in so many ways.
Banksy’s works encapsulated sympathy, anger and above all humor, reacting accusingly to the inadequate aid and slow subsequent clean-up operations there.
This is where Banksy created and showed the now iconic Nola.
“Some of the things that are supposed to protect us, can also harm us.”
NOLA portrays a young girl in black and white, in a dress beneath a black umbrella, holding one hand out and feeling the rain that is pouring down...
This striking image of a girl being drenched by rain from inside of her umbrella is in reference to the devastating event of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which have been amplified by failure of the flood defenses that had been designed to protect the citizens from such a disaster. Naturally, an umbrella is designed to keep the individual using it dry and protected from the elements.
The fact that the rain is falling not from the sky but instead from the inside of the umbrella is Banksy’s way of suggesting to the viewer that very things (or institutions) that were created and designed to protect us can, at times, do quite the opposite – a scathing indictment of FEMA and the government’s response to protect and help the people directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Banksy also painted Abraham Lincoln as a homeless man, pushing a trolley full of goods. The building upon which Banksy had painted his image of Lincoln has since been demolished to make way for a healthcare facility.
Obviously, the choice of Lincoln as a visual theme illustrates Banksy’s extraordinary ability to send a message right on point, filled with historical references, and wit. Indeed, Lincoln was the great figurehead of the emancipation movement, liberating the slaves of the Southern states—many of whose descendants remain at a socio-economic disadvantage throughout America. During Hurricane Katrina, that legacy of structural discrimination was felt all the more keenly as the poorer black areas of New Orleans suffered the greatest losses when the levee broke.
Banksy also left various murals depicting anti-graffiti activists as villains. Grey Ghost features some kind of a graffiti eradicator painting over a beautiful and colorful flower with some dull grey paint. On another mural, the Graffiti Remover is busy rolling gray paint over a helpless and panic-stricken stick figure…
8. US Murals (2010-2011)
The world premiere of Exit Through The Gift Shop occurred at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on 24 January 2010. Banksy created 10 murals around Park City and Salt Lake City to tie in with the screening.
Cameraman and Flower depicts a man holding a portable video camera similar to the ones used by cameramen who accompany news reporters when they go to the field. He is shown as kneeling on the ground and trying to get a close-up of a pink flower by pulling it close. This, sadly, appears to have uprooted the flower.
Camera Man and Flower came as a pleasant astonishment to the people of Park City, Utah on January 19, 2010. When the owner of Java Cow on Main Street opened her coffee shop that morning she was astonished to discover a mural on the wall of her business establishment. It looked very much like a piece created by Banksy, and indeed it was… At that time, the artist’s name was somewhat familiar to the locals because a documentary about him was set to premiere during the approaching Sundance Film Festival.
A number of other Banksy pieces also appeared in neighboring Salt Lake City, so many suspected that the artist was actually in the area and might be participating in the festival..
Located in a car park on Broadway, Downtown LA, Swing Girl is a great example of how Banksy incorporates his work into the urban scene within the existing landscape.
The ‘ING’ portion of the “PARKING” sign has been whitewashed out to emphasize the word “PARK”. Banksy then stenciled a young girl on a swing hanging to the letter A.
The artist most probably comments on the lack of places for kids to play safely in what is a fairly rough area of Los Angeles. One can also view this work as a demonstration that there is no need for anything special to have fun and enjoy oneself whatever the environment we live in.
In April, to coincide with the premiere of Exit Through the Gift Shop in San Francisco, five of his works appeared in various parts of the city. Banksy reportedly paid the owner of a building in Chinatown in San Francisco $50 for the use of their wall for one of his stencils.
In May 2010, seven new Banksy works of art appeared in Toronto, Canada, though most have been subsequently painted over or removed.
9. Better Out Than In (2013)
On 1 October 2013, Banksy began a one-month show on the streets of New-York, for which he opened a separate website and granted an interview to The Village Voice via his publicist. On every day for the rest of the month, he produced one street art piece in different locations.
Banksy even provided audio-guide available on a toll-free number for each work created… Just as if each of those works were part of a curated exhibit within a museum with audio-guides.
Better Out Than In seems to be a reference to a quote by the impressionist painter Paul Cezanne:“All pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside.”
The Street Is In Play is the first of Banksy’s pieces from “Better Out That In” his month long “residency” in New York City in October 2013.
The mural incorporates Banksy‘s distinctive stencil technique and pokes fun at the law by incorporating an anti-graffiti sign. However, within hours of it being posted on Banksy’s Instagram profile, the sign which played an integral part of the piece, had been stolen. By the next day, city officials had painted over the work. The piece was located in the city’s Allen Street.
Banksy dropped Waiting in Vain on Larry Flynt’s NY Hustler Club & Cigar Lounge at 641 West 51st St. It depicts a man waiting with red fading flowers.
While at first glance today’s new Banksy piece could look like any man off the street patiently waiting for his date (love the dropping flower petals), step back a bit, and see how the story changes when you factor in the clever context. After a day off due to “police activity,” Banksy is back putting up this interesting piece on the side of the Hustler Club in Hell’s Kitchen. His caption reads, “Waiting in vain…at the door of the club.”
Hammer Boy depicts a boy is holding a hammer, in the process of striking a red fire hydrant, which has a pipe coming up through the top leading to a round red object several feet higher, possibly some kind of fire alarm…
Upon closer examination, the viewer notices that the hammer is quite similar to the high striker carnival game hammer. The pipe extending upwards from the fire extinguisher then forms part of a “high striker” or “strength tester” that one can find in street carnival games. The different “point levels” are the signs next to the pole which read “Siamese connection for the fire dept.” and “Sprinklers throughout building”.
Hammer Boy appeared on 24 October 2013, as part of Banksy‘s Better Out Than In residency, located on the outer wall of a DSW on 79th street and Broadway, on Upper West Side in Manhattan. This mural is a perfect example of a site specific work in which the artist has repurposed some basic and ugly urban pipes and signs into an artwork which becomes part of the urban landscape. Indeed some city spaces are not restricted to their prescribed use, and objects can be elevated to the aesthetics of art and be fun for the viewer.
Crazy Horses Riding Through The Lower East Side To A Wikileaks Soundtrack is most probably the most political and innovative piece created by Banksy during his New-York residency. It presents a complex visual dynamic with armed men in gun sights, horses wearing night vision goggles, together with a free phone number to hear the audio of an air strike…
A distinguishing feature of this new piece is that no part of it is actually on a wall: it is rendered on the sides of an abandoned car and of truck, adding impressive visual depth. But the real strength of this work resides in the accompanying audio…
The 1-800 number takes the caller to a 39-minute recording of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad.
The listener can clearly hear the racket of gun turrets and radio communications between soldiers killing civilians.
The cut comes from the infamous Collateral Murder video released to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning in 2010. The 17-minute horror show depicts the killing of children and civilians by U.S. soldiers in Iraq trying to rescue wounded Iraqi combatants.
Ghetto For Life appeared in South Bronx, New-York, on October 22. This typical Banksy‘s mural portrays a young boy working on a graffiti slogan saying “Ghetto 4 Life”. The striking part of the visual is the way this young boy is dressed, which does not appear consistent with what one thinks a young boy from the ghetto would dress, and on top of that, it seems he is accompanied with a butler ready to serve some kind of refreshments…
Maybe more than any other mural, it ignited a vivid debate over the word “Ghetto”. As usual with Banksy, the location is part of the message, as this mural appeared in South Bronx and it provoked strong reaction from locals. Sustainable South Bronx may have sold t-shirts that say “Green the ghetto,” and others who live or work in the South Bronx may sometimes refer to their neighborhoods as “the ghetto” but many didn’t like hearing that word from a white artist with no Bronx roots…
10. UK Murals (2009-2015)
Banksy created some of his most iconic murals in the UK between 2009 and 2015. Just a few are highlighted below.
No Ball Games appeared in 2009 as a spray-painted mural in Tottenham in North London, on a shop wall at the junction between Tottenham High Road and Philip Lane.
No Ball Games portrays two children playing outside with what appear to be a sign that reads, “NO BALL GAMES” as if it were a ball itself. The image, portrayed in Banksy’s iconic stencil-style, is obviously rich with irony. The artist is making a social comment on how even basic children’s activities seem to be now controlled and regulated, thus maybe even encouraging children (and adults) to break rules.
The irony ofNo Ball Games critiques the rules that Banksy believes restrict society on a daily basis. Banksy mocks overprotective governments, or “nanny states,” interfering with personal choice, implying that even innocent, everyday children’s activities like playing ball outside are controlled by the state. Obviously, the children should be taken more widely as symbols for people in general, constantly under surveillance and regulation by a higher authority against the artist warns us.
Choose Your Weapon first appeared on a wall of The Grange Pub, in Bermondsey, London, in 2010. Shortly after the stencil appeared, it was boarded over, only to reappear shortly thereafter, framed and covered with perspex.
Choose Your Weapon, also known as CYW,is a portrayal of British disaffected youth and gang culture whose aggressive dogs have become weaponry in their quest for power. The naïve style of the dog further evokes the detachment to the reality of a weapons ability. And obviously a clear direct homage to Keith Haring and his famous “barking dog”.
The hooded man’s menacing appearance is contrasted by his casual hand-in-the-pocket posture and his big barking cartoon dog. The connotation in much of the media at the time, and in Banksy’s own interpretation, is that the dog has become an alternative weapon on the streets of the UK.
Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock appeared on the side of an empty building believed to be a failed housing project stalled by the recession. It is still visible today although it has some streaks of black paint over it.
Spy Booth portrays three stenciled government spies, straight out of a film noir set, around an existing telephone booth on the side of the Cheltenham property. Permanently perched around the phone box wielding 1950s surveillance equipment, the trench coated trio were set to forever listen in on conversations within. Or at least they were, before the removal of the valuable mural…
Spy Booth was a typical Banksy provocative political work, appearing just a few meters away from the British Government Communications Headquarters a year after former NSA contractor and notorious whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposed the British intelligence and security organization for mining online and telephone data.
Mobile Lovers appeared in 2014 on a door within a beautiful stone wall on Clement Street in Bristol. It depicts a lovely couple in a close embrace… but, instead of gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, each of them seems to be hypnotized by their own phone…
With this striking visual, Banksy critiques our societies that created a true addiction to cellphones for many. As it is often the case with the artist, location is part of the work. The mural is painted in a darkened doorway, suggesting an illicit affair, but instead of a dangerous plot, we see two people distracted by technology. The romantic glow is actually coming from the light of their screens. Banksy used multiple spray-painted stencils to achieve the subtle details and glow of mobile devices. It results in a witty and true social commentary that our phones now rule our lives, even in the most intimate moments.
Art Buff portrays a woman wearing headphones and staring at a plinth, upon which rests a patch of what seems to be a painted-out graffiti. The name of the piece is a play on words, “buff” being a slang term for the painting over graffiti.
In Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, Banksy pays tribute to Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Of course, in true Banksy style, there’s something a little off about the piece. The pearl earring (and the entire earlobe) has been replaced with an alarm box (from ADT). The piece can been seen on a building at the Albion Dockyard in Hanover Place.
11. Calais Murals (2015)
In December 2015, Banksy created several murals in the vicinity of Calais, France, including the so-called “Jungle” where migrants live as they attempt to enter the United Kingdom. One of those murals, The Son of A Migrant From Syria depicts Steve Jobs as a migrant from Syria.
The Son of A Migrant From Syria
“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 $7 billion a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”
12. New York Murals (March 2018)
In March 2018, Banksy painted a few murals during a short trip to New-York, mostly related to Capitalism, Stocks and Capital Market and the impact of the “Wall Street” economy on US society. Banksy also painted a gigantic wall dedicated to Zehra Dogan who was thrown in jail after she published a drawing criticizing the Turkish regime.
You Loot, We Shoot portrays a somewhat typical NY Stock Exchange broker running away with a pile of cash… The stenciled artwork shows a business man in suit from the NYSE ( New York Stock Exchange ) quickly fleeing with a bunch of US dollars in his hands. This is the second piece related to Stocks and Financial Markets after the first one that appeared last month on Coney Island Avenue.
Banksy’s mural at the corner of Houston Street and Bowery protests the imprisonment of Zehra Dogan, a Turkish artist and journalist.
The gigantic 70-foot-long (21-meter-long) mural calls for the government in Ankara to release Turkish journalist and artist Zehra Dogan. She was sentenced to more than two years in jail for her painting of the Kurdish town of Nusaybin, which was partly destroyed during fights between the Turkish army and Kurdish antigovernmental fighters. Banksy‘s work joins the chorus of international voices calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop imprisoning Turkish writers, journalists and intellectuals, which has been ongoing since the failed 2016 coup.
Banksy continues his New York session 2018 with another large mural, this time in Brooklyn. The piece depicts a typical real-estate developer equipped with a hardhat and a graph instead of a whip in his hand. A reference to Donald Trump?
Dubbed “The Whip” and as usual with Banksy, the stencil goes straight to the point. It shows a business-man whipping a group of people using a whip depicted as a stock-market graph.
Banksy also left a beautiful “running rat”, on 6th Avenue, a few blocks South of The Empire State Building.
13. Paris Murals (June 2018)
Banksy was in Paris around World Refugee Day (20 June 2018) and against the backdrop of Paris Fashion Week which introduced collaborations between high fashion brands and well-known artists (Dior partnered with KAWS and Louis Vuitton with Takashi Murakami). At that occasion, Banksy left France with a few poignant murals, with strong political messages. They take aim at the French government, especially with reference to what was seen as their poor management of the migrant situation.
This mural, located on the fire door of the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, where terrorists killed 90 people in 2015, portrays a mysterious veiled and mournful female figure. This thought to have been created as a tribute to the victims of the Bataclan terrorist attack.
Migrant Soup was realized near Porte de la Chapelle in Paris, where “La Bulle” (the nickname given to some kind of a refugee camp) was located until August 2017. This camp was home to around 2,700 refugees and it is said it had to be dismantled some 35 times before 2,000 migrants were bussed to temporary shelters. This was done as part of Emmanuel Macron’s wish to remove the refugees “off the streets, out of the woods” as stated during his campaign. Depicting a black girl painting a Victorian wallpaper pattern over a swastika, the artist is commenting on the way politicians are concealing wrongdoing and potentially fascist policies.
Probably one of the most provocative murals in the series, Liberte, Egalite, Cable TV, is a reinterpretation of the famous historical painting by Jacques-Louis David, “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”. This painting is a canon of art history in France representing Napoleon on his war horse conquering Europe, a true symbol of power and influence..
By covering the rider with his own cape, Banksy is commenting on the current misguided way the government is leading the country, blinding people with propaganda and false promises. The red cape might also reference the country’s so-called “Burka Ban” which was introduced by the French government in 2010. The law prohibited the covering of the face in public, including with religious garments such as the full burka or niqabs worn by some female Muslims.
Found in the premises of the Sorbonne University, Man with Dog is kind of self-explanatory. It portrays a man, probably the dog’s master, offering a “treat” to a dog, while concealing a weapon that could be used to kill it. Banksy intends to illustrate what most governments tend to do in the context of their migration policies.
Banksy also left a few Rat Murals, maybe to pay homage to Blek Le Rat who is considered as one of the earliest stencil artists, and who is said to have had a great influence on the work of the artist. Banksy confirmed on his Instagram: “The birthplace of modern stencil art.” Banksy‘s comments on his Instagram account accompanying the pictures of those rats show that they pay homage to the 50th anniversary of May 1968, marking an historic uprising that saw a series of student protests against capitalism and consumerism. This was a volatile period of civil unrest for France, when the government temporarily ceased to function.
One mural portrays a rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under May 1968 in the Sorbonne neighborhood in Paris.
Champagne Rat seems to be propelled by a popping champagne cork. Using this symbol of affluence as their vehicle to overtake obstacles, the rodents are once again Banksy’s metaphor for working class people making significant change when they join together and fight for similar cause.
Banksy posted a photo of a rat holding a box cutter on Instagram, with the caption:
“Fifty years since the uprising in Paris 1968. The birthplace of modern stencil art.”
The rat with a bandanna covering his face carries a large X-Acto knife, a common symbol of stencil cutting.
14. Recent UK Murals (2019-2020)
Seasons Greetings appeared in Port Talbot, on December 2018, and was quickly provided with a temporary protective covering to prevent vandalism. A two-sided graffiti piece, one side depicting a child tasting the falling snow, the other revealing that the snow is in fact smoke and embers from a fire, appeared on two walls of a steelworker’s garage.
Banksy then revealed the mural was in fact his via an Instagram video sound tracked by the festive children’s song Little Snowflake. The owner of the garage, Ian Lewis, said that he had lost sleep over fears that the image would be vandalized….
In December 2019, in the spirit of Christmas, Banksy created a new mural bringing attention to homelessness. In a video posted on the artist’s Instagram, a man named Ryan lays down on a bench that has been transformed into a sleigh with the addition of two reindeers painted on the adjacent wall. The video has been seen over 3 million times within 24 hours.
A rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” plays in the background as Ryan dozes off.
The work appeared on Vyse Street in Birmingham, in central England.
On 13 February 2020, a special Valentine‘s mural appeared on the side of a building in Bristol‘s Barton Hill neighborhood, depicting a young girl firing a slingshot of real red flowers and leaves. Banksy confirmed this was his work on his Instagram account and website. The mural was defaced just days after appearing.
Located in Barton hill, precisely where he started painting graffiti in his early days, the new artwork depicts a young girl holding a slingshot toward the sky with an explosion of red roses and poppies. A mix between Banksy’s iconic Girl with Balloon, and his none less iconic Love Is In The Air stencil resulting in an explosion of flowers!
Hoola-Hoop Girl first appeared on social media on 14 October 2020. After a few days of speculations whether it was done by a local street artist, Banksy confirmed the piece as his on Saturday morning. The work depicts a girl hula-hooping with a tire. It seems like the tire once was part of the slaughtered bike – lock chained at the lamp post beside her.
As it is always the case with Banksy, there are many possible interpretations to be made.
Ultimately, Banksy is an optimistic and loves to share joy and happiness through his works. There, we see a young girl having fun and playing with an old tire. After, despite the pandemic, despite all the troubles one has going through life, maybe one can still find some happiness in the little things. Find new uses for obsolete materialism.
A simple but powerful advice from stoicism?
iiAchoo!! appeared on 10 December 2020 on a semi-detached house in steep Vale Street, in Bristol. This incredible mural depicts an older woman sneezing out her false teeth. This woman wears a headscarf and holds a handkerchief. She is dropping her walking stick and handbag as she loses her dentures while sneezing. As it is usually the case for Banksy, the location is carefully chosen to produce a spectacular visual effect. Indeed, Vale Street is England’s steepest residential street. Its 22-degree slope is used during annual Easter Sunday egg-rolling competitions.
On 1 March 2021, a new work appeared on the outside wall of Reading Prison, in Berkshire, England. The work shows an inmate dressed in a striped black and white outfit lowering himself down the wall using a long sheet of paper (mimicking the tied bedsheets method) weighted by a typewriter.
This mural depicts Oscar Wilde escaping the Reading GAOL Prison with his typewriter knot to the bedsheets. Oscar Wilde had been incarcerated in Reading GAOL prison after being convicted of gross indecency in 1895. Wilde was sentenced to two years of forced labor.
Banksy revealed that he had created the work through a video posted both on his website and Instagram account. The video shows the piece being spray painted onto the wall with a voiceover lifted from an episode of the television show The Joy of Painting, hosted by the American artist Bob Ross….
This is the most recent mural Banksy created… More to come soon for sure…