Banksy wall and piece

21 March 2016, 12:00AM

“I’m going to speak my mind, so this wont take very long. Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Although you might have to creep about at night and lie to your mum it’s actually one of the more honest art forms available. There is no elitism or hype. It exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer abd nobody is put off by the price of admission. A wall has always been the best place to publish your work.

 The people who run our cities don’t understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit. They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of a decline in society. But graffiti is only dangerous in the minds of three types of people: politicians, advertising executives and graffiti artists. 

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you are never allowed to answer back. Well they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back.”

Banksy the source of the above quote has become famous for his infamy. Beginning his artistic career as a street artist his works are now so famous they are worth millions and being scraped off the walls on which they are painted.  Banksys’ identity remains unknown, although recently scientists think they have uncovered who he is. 

He rose to prominence for his provocative stencilled pieces in the late 1990s. Banksy is the subject of a 2010 documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which examines the relationship between commercial and street art. His quote above points the finger clearly at the economic disparity between the rich and the consumer and his satirical slogans provide us with food for thought – “laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge” he taunts to the millions who encounter his works around city scapes around the world. 

Banksy’s artwork is characterized by striking images, often combined with slogans. His work engages political themes; he satirically critiques war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed. Common subjects include rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children. In addition to his two-dimensional work, Banksy is known for his installation artwork. One of the most celebrated of these pieces featured a live elephant painted with a Victorian wallpaper pattern, sparked controversy among animal rights activists. The exhibition centrepiece was an 8,000-pound live elephant, slathered in red paint and overlaid with a fleur-de-lis pattern. L.A.’s outspoken animal-rights advocates were incensed; the authorities ordered the paint to be washed off. Fliers distributed to the glittering crowd made the point that “There’s an elephant in the room...20 billion people live below the poverty line.”

Other pieces have drawn attention for their edgy themes or the boldness of their execution. Banksy’s work on the West Bank barrier, between Israel and Palestine, received significant media attention in 2005. He is also known for his use of copyrighted material and subversion of classic images. An example of this is Banksy’s version of Monet’s famous series of water lilies paintings, adapted by Banksy to include drifting trash and debris.

Banksy’s worldwide fame has transformed his artwork from acts of vandalism to sought-after high art pieces. Journalist Max Foster has referred to the rising prices of graffiti as street art as “the Banksy effect.” Interest in Banksy escalated with the release of the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for an Academy Award.

Banksy’s 2005 trip to the wall between Israel and Palestine resulted in several startling images depicting island beaches, children and balloons, children playing in the sand. All images of a world out of reach for the Palestinians who have been ‘imprisoned’ since 1967.  

Painting the gulf between the embattled nations was both risky and risque. As the unnamed graffiti-prankster-provocateur put up windows to idyllic paradises and a ladder that went up and over the barricade, fatigued guards stood watch with assault rifles. Never content or politically satisfied with displaying his works through a gallery system, Banksy’s vandalism reached a subversive apex at the top of the wall. The nine pieces he put up were implicitly political simply because of where they were located and more actively for the sense of constructivism they elicited.

‘Son of a Migrant” reveals Steve Jobs as a migrant during the civil war and Islamic State-related violence rend Syria, thousands are fleeing the country and looking to resettle. While some countries, such as Canada, are welcoming Syrian refugees with open arms, others, such as the United States, have been more xenophobic.

Banksy recently did an installation in a Calais refugee camp depicting Steve Jobs as a Syrian refugee. 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,” Banksy said in a rare public statement obtained by BBC. Indeed, Jobs’s biological father is Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, a Syrian-born man who emigrated to the United States.

Banksy has always been one to point out the obvious, especially when it comes to economic concerns with his native county. In 2011, Banksy was busier than ever. Capping off the year was a batch of pieces in London, one of which read, “Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.” The piece appeared in Canary Wharf, one of London’s two financial districts, on the side of a vacant building within a rectangular space for advertisements. Banksy’s placement of this piece allows for the backdrop of London’s financial skyscrapers in the distance. The message was an appropriate satire on London’s economic recession.

Banksy’s Napalm piece depicts a nine-year-old girl named Kim Phuc. Phuc was the subject of a photo in 1972, which showed the naked young girl running from her home after a Napalm blast. Banksy removed Phuc from Nick Ut’s original photo and placed her hand-in-hand with two of the United States’ most famous pop-culture characters. The piece presents a biting critique of the United States. Other critics saw the piece as a take on the treatment of Vietnamese civilians during war.

Banksy firmly states that all artists must be prepared to suffer for their work. He states that it takes a lot of guts to stand up anonymously in a western democracy and call for things no-one else believes in – like peace and justice and freedom 


Dr. Vanya Taule’alo writes & edits the Observer Art Page for the Samoa Arts Council (SAC). Guided by SAC’s vision “to envisage a future where the Arts Sector is fully developed for the benefit of Samoa”, the page promotes all forms of art and promotes the arts in the Samoan community. For more information on SAC see and Samoa Arts

21 March 2016, 12:00AM

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