Banksy: Artist or Criminal?


Andrew Obergh, News Editor

Graffiti is something we see everyday. On the stalls in the bathroom, on the side of buildings, on your desk in homeroom, almost everywhere you go, someone has made your surroundings their canvas. You may see graffiti as an illegal and annoying form of art, however, sometimes, it can carry a powerful message.

Images around the world have been popping up, all crafted by the infamous “Banksy”. No one seems to know his true identity, but he is known for his impressive and politically based graffiti murals. Much of his work is based in the United Kingdom, yet some of it has popped up in places like California, New York, and Israel. The political themes behind his work include anti-war, anti-capitalism, anarchy, and existentialism. Many of them portray pop culture and corporate icons portrayed in a sarcastic manner. For example, one of his more famous works is of Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald holding the hands of a starved and crying human being, representing the influence the corporate world has on the real world. This piece is entitled “Napalm”, and has received both positive and negative feedback for it’s symbolic attack towards capitalism.

In recent news, Banksy had put one of his paintings up for sale, to benefit an AIDS charity in NYC. The painting was originally bought by Banksy at a thrift store. Originally a simple landscape, Banksy just added a Nazi soldier sitting on a bench, and re-donated the piece. The painting went for $615,000, but the buyer dropped out and hasn’t been heard from since. . Several of the next highest bidders were asked to pay for the piece. Many of them declined, because they felt as though they were cheated into bidding higher, until somewhere down the line, the piece was sold, for an undisclosed price, as the buyer requested to remain anonymous.

Some argue that his works are “Art-Terrorism”. By definition, yes, he is a criminal, graffiti is a crime. But to call him a terrorist? To me, that seems a bit extreme. Even though graffiti is illegal, some of his works do bring people insight on the world, and allows them to express themselves, which, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. I am not condoning illegal activity, but it is a shame when talented artists like Banksy are viewed as criminals and shunned from society. If politicians can plaster their messages on billboards and suburban lawns, then why should an activist, such as Banksy, not be able to get his point across? Art is what this world needs, not another shopping mall or oil rig.