Cave Painting Removal
Date: May 2008
Location: Leake street tunnel, London, England
This mural was created at the occasion of the Cans Festival, a “street party of stencil art” organized and hosted by Banksy in May 2008.
Cave Painting Removal portrays 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.
By comparing graffiti with ancient prehistorical cave painting, Banksy questions the value society puts on artworks. It can be considered as a criticism of our modern societies tendency to ignore urban artistic legacy. Indeed, we keep on erasing outputs of artistic expression for the sake of arbitrary notions of putative cultural norms. As a socio-political statement, we could even go further as to think we are destroying our artistic and anthropological origins. As such, the ignorance of a council worker following orders, becomes an act of censorship. The figure (the council worker) itself is also graffiti, but nobody is insisting that the figure is removed, just the art.
Banksy is also, more widely, commenting on the value of art, questioning what is considered as art, and how that sits with public space versus private gallery space.
“The Art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit and decide the success of Art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an Art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.”
The role of Graffiti as an art form is juxtaposed with the role of Paleolithic art; marking the walls around us seems to be a part of what makes us human… Graffiti Removal suggests that the cultural legacy of society is slowly being erased by society itself, much like some graffiti is quickly removed regardless of its message, positive or negative.
This piece by Banksy only 4 months from May 2008 to August 2008. It was created in Leake Street Tunnel (also known as Banksy Tunnel) a designated graffiti area. It was soon covered with other works, such is the ever changing nature of the tunnel.
About The Lascaux Caves
Lascaux is a complex of caves near the village of Montignac located South-West of France. Over 600 parietal wall paintings cover the interior walls and ceilings of the cave. The paintings represent primarily large animals, typical local contemporary fauna that correspond with the fossil record of the Upper Paleolithic in the area.
They are the combined effort of many generations and, with continued debate, the age of the paintings is now usually estimated at around 17,000 years. Lascaux was inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979.
The original caves have been closed to the public since 1963, as their condition was deteriorating, but there are now a number of replicas.