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Turf War, London, 2003


Turf War
London, July 2003

An Exhibition of Graffiti, Stencils, Slogans and Live Animals


When: July 18 – July 21, 2003
Where: Warehouse in East London, England
Opening on 18 July 2003 and lasting only three days, Turf War was Banksy’s first major exhibition where he displayed a variety of different techniques and styles. It marks the beginning of a string of important exhibitions he put on over the next two years or so.
The exhibition was hosted in an abandoned warehouse in East London. Visitors were welcomed by a Banksy Turf War sign on a pallet, and a window display to clearly signify the exhibitions location.
Immediately upon entering the space, visitors were reminded of London’s ever present CCTV by a sign reading, “If you are reading this notice you have already been recorded by Close (sic) Circuit Television”.
Turf War featured many painted animals, including pigs in police colors, sheep in “concentration camp stripes,” a cow painted with Andy Warhol‘s face, various stencils directly applied to the walls, as well as many originals in various media.
The New-Yorker described the show as “a Barnumesque spectacle, staged at a secret location,” and noted the inclusion of a particularly controversial portrait of Queen Elizabeth II depicted as a chimpanzee, titled Monkey Queen. The show also displayed vandalized classic oil paintings. The exhibition was partly sponsored by the fashion brand Puma, who produced collaborative t-shirts and sneakers featuring the Turf War branding.
The location (Kingsland Road, Hackney/Dalston) was kept a secret until the very last moment, and it controversially featured live painted animals. It was open to the public beginning on Friday, July 18th for four days, but closed down early on Sunday.

Banksy – The Lost Interview at Turf War

Banksy commented at the time “I’m assuming the cops will come down at some point, but I’ll be long gone by then.” Banksy was indeed correct that the cops showed up, and he was also correct that he would be long gone by the time they did.


Banksy painted various animals for Turf War. Cows, sheep, and pigs were painted with various imagery including bullseye’s, arrows, Banksy tags, as well as mask and prison markings.
The paint used was non-toxic to the animals and started to wear off quite quickly as they rubbed against their surroundings or laid down on the ground. Banksy is a noted animal rights activist and had no intention of causing harm to the animals. Police arrived on site after animal rights protesters chained themselves to some bars near the show under the assumption the animals were spray painted with unsafe material. According to a BBC news report at the time, the RSPCA had attended the site and had approved the conditions the animals were being held in before the show even opened.


Toxic Mary
Even A Suicide Bomber Needs a Hug
Monkey Queen
Crude Oil Jerry
Bird and Grenade
Drip Dinner
Che Guevara