Banksy artworks exploded with abrasive truths in Florence’s elegant Medici Riccardi Palace, an early residence of the Medici family. Such a contrast to Banksy’s urban walls of London or crumbling war torn walls of Palestine and, as far as I know, we have no Banksy street art anywhere round town. The exhibition has been a great success and in fact extended its closure by a month so we were fortunately still in time to see it.
The story of this artist is unique, his identity still unknown, at best thought to be English, born around 1973 and still continuing to surprise, shock and delight audiences with his predominantly stencil style artwork.
I read of his early installations, that brought Banksy to world attention -like ‘Turf War’ 2003 which included pigs painted in police colours, sheep painted in concentration camp stripes and a cow covered in images of Andy Warhol’s face. It created something of a furore as ‘animal activists chained themselves to the entrance and just prior to the opening Banksy had left a message to say there were 40 lousy bottles of red wine available but it was best if spectators brought their own’!
At ‘Barely Legal’ in 2006 he stunned audiences with his live painted elephant blending into the décor. A statement on world poverty….although “the meaning of the stunt appeared to be lost on some observers.” (BBC news comment)
We bounced from slogan to slogan:
amidst satirical and brazen statements against authority :
And take a closer look at what his ‘Grannies’ are knitting!
Inspired by a famous photograph during the Vietnam war of the 9yr old girl burnt by American napalm bombs running from her village. Banksy is showing ‘the contrast between reality and perception, how the US perceives itself and how it is perceived by others.’
The elderly person unaware that death is so close in the form of a gigantic circular saw, is interpreted as Banksy’s unhappy childhood memories by the seaside or an invitation to make the most of every moment?
Other images less dramatic yet as powerful in their message and gathering some embarrassed laughs from the present audience. We were loving it and we had not come to the final shock…….
Banksy’s most popular work ‘Girl with Balloon’ took pride of place, an image known to us all. Even recently it was used on a poster for Climate Change at last Fridays for Future march, the balloon substituted with mother earth. And I am sure Banksy would be supportive of the change.
But the final shock was still to come. We watched the video of ‘Girl with Balloon’ being auctioned at Sotheby’s for the grand price of £860,000 and were as staggered as those present to see it slowly shredded as soon as the Auctioneers hammer came down!
Banksy’s final word on capitalism? He is certainly determined to get his message across but the stunt seemingly backfired. The shredder got stuck and only half of the work was shredded and the Art world is now saying it is probably worth twice as much!?
His works are endless, stimulating, sensational and forever thought provoking, so if you would like to see more, check this video.