Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, Louvre Museum, Paris
Painted in 2000, the work dates from a pivotal moment in the career of Britain’s best-known – and most elusive – street artist. Coming to prominence as a teenager in Bristol in the early 1990s, Banksy began to achieve critical acclaim at the turn of the millennium, relocating to London whilst keeping his identity a closely guarded secret. His early freehand graffiti gave way to his signature use of stencils, allowing him to work at greater speed. Banksy claims that this change in approach was inspired by viewing a stenciled serial number on the underside of a rubbish lorry, where he once took refuge from the police.
Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q
Recalling famous appropriations of the Mona Lisa by Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, the present work takes its place within Banksy’s satirical, subversive and darkly humorous pantheon of imagery. At the same time, its subject retains some of the original painting’s enigmatic qualities: Mona Lisa is both attacker and target, her smile betraying nothing.
Banksy, Cut It Out, December 2004
Banksy would return to the Mona Lisa throughout his practice, painting her in a variety of profane guises. In 2004, as part of a stunt, he hung one of his own versions of the painting in the Louvre Museum (home to the original work) replacing the subject’s face with a yellow smiley emoticon.