Lenin on Skates, 2002
Acrylic and spray-paint on canvas
60.9 x 35.5 cm (24×14 inches)
From a series, unique in this format
Stenciled “BANKSY” on the left edge
Titled and dated “2002” on the reverse
Sotheby’s New-York: 12 November 2008
“Who put the Revolution on Ice?”
Lenin on Skates portrays Soviet Union leader Vladimir Lenin roller-skating in Nike branded skates. Banksy’s work acts as visual cultural criticism and commentary, with established social and political agendas serving as targets for his unique style of stenciled illustration. In Soviet propaganda, Lenin’s image was commonly depicted with one of his arms outstretched. Banksy satirizes this iconographic symbol of power by re-contextualizing the stereotypical pose as a motion during the act of rollerblading.
Executed in 2002, Lenin on Skates encapsulates the artist’s early and iconic imagery of political satire that became synonymous with his name. This work, depicting Russian Soviet Supreme Leader Lenin, falls squarely into Banksy’s subversive pantheon of recognizable authority figures. The present work has another key element that too has become synonymous with the artist’s work: playfulness. Banksy’s ability to juxtapose roller skates, a totemic symbol of leisure and play, branded Nike, which symbolizes the hegemony of American Capitalism, with that of Lenin, the icon of Communism, is simultaneously humorous and unnerving.
Widely considered one of the most significant and influential figures of the 20th century, Lenin was the posthumous subject of a pervasive personality cult within the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. A controversial and highly divisive historical figure, Lenin is viewed by supporters as a champion of socialism and the working class while critics have emphasized his role as founder and leader of an authoritarian regime responsible for political repression and mass killings.