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Laugh Now - Banksy at the MOCO

Girl with Balloon, 2003, spray paint on metal shelf, 60x90 cm
We know Banksy for his iconic street art and the overt political and social commentaries of his artworks. But who knows for certain his true identity? Banksy has carefully guarded his anonymity perhaps because revealing himself will open a Pandora box of legal entanglements. 

We’ve seen or are aware of a few of Banksy’s street art in and around his hometown in Bristol. And we’ve heard of the spectacular partial shredding of his painting Girl with a Balloon that was on auction at Sotheby's in 2018. But did you know that Banksy has quite a few indoor works of art? The MOCO in Amsterdam has gathered several of these works on canvas, wood, metal and paper for the Laugh Now exhibition which is not authorized by the artist. The artworks on display were loaned to the museum by private collectors and have been certified by Pest Control, the official body that authenticates all works by Banksy. 

Girl with Balloon
The original, seminal work of Banksy under the Waterloo Bridge in London is no more. But a painting of the same subject exists. It evokes messages of release, regret, wonder, aspirations and love.

Kids on Guns, 2003, spray paint on canvas
The girl with the balloon is no longer alone. She has a friend. And they are standing on top of a pile of dangerous guns. Why are we increasingly putting our children in this situation? 

“Kids on Guns shows how children can adapt to different environments-good or bad-but that doesn’t mean they should have to. Their innocence should be protected because children are the future.” MOCO 

***We should protect our children not only because they are our future but because they are children and cannot protect themselves. They deserve to have a happy and conflict-free childhood and grow in a peaceful world. TravelswithCharie

CND* soldiers, 2005, screenprint
Banksy’s street art frequently delivers political and social messages. In this screenprint, Banksy portrays the soldiers with machine guns and one of them is painting a peace sign on a wall. Peace is a pool of dripping, red paint - like blood. How ironic is it that blood is shed to achieve peace?

*Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Forgive us our Trespassing
“It hints of the place from which they were born - the streets.” MOCO

Forgive us our Trespassing on Grey Board, 2012
 spray paint on found plywood
An allusion to the connection between street art and trespassing? “Remember - it is always easier to get forgiveness than permission.” Banksy

The Battle of the Beanfield
On June 1, 1985, Wiltshire Police Officers stopped about 600 people on their way to attend the Stonehenge Summer Festival. What was to be a cultural celebration turned into a bloody confrontation that sent 8 police officers and 16 travelers to the hospital. 537 travelers were later arrested in the largest mass arrest since World War II. Why? There are several reasons claimed by both sides. One is the view held by police that these attendees were a direct threat because of their hippie lifestyle.

The Silence of the Lamb, 2002, spray paint on wall
Notice the dripping technique that Banksy has applied to this painting. Rather than stencils which the artist uses for his street art, he applied paint with a heavy brush.

Love is in the Air, 2003, screenprint on paper
Love is in the Air was first painted on the West Bank barrier wall in Jerusalem in 2003 as a political statement on Palestinian rights. The masked protestor is throwing flowers, not a Molotov cocktail.

“If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful, we don’t remain neutral.” From Banksy’s video “Make this the year you discover a new destination”.

10 Monkeys, 2002, spray paint on painted board in 3 parts
The message of the painting is clear: Laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge.
(I couldn’t capture all 10 monkeys without a wide lens.)

“You paint 100 chimpanzees and they still call you a guerilla artist.” Banksy

Kate Moss, 2005, spray paint on canvas, 81 x 81 cm
A nod to Andy Warhol and his series of screenprints, particularly that of Marilyn Monroe. In this painting, Kate Moss has been crowned with the hair of Marilyn Monroe.

Home Sweet Home, 2006, vandalized oil painting
Banksy is cognizant of art history - the painting styles and techniques and the artists like Picasso and Warhol to whom he has paid homage. In Home Sweet Home, the idyllic background has been defaced with “graffiti”. Does this mean he doesn’t care for the landscape painting genre or the bucolic scene? There’s nothing sweet left in this canvas.

Crude Oil Jerry, 2004, spray paint on canvas
Jerry from Tom and Jerry is all ready to set the peaceful English countryside ablaze. Another example of Banksy’s aversion to bucolic scenery.

“It is an act of defiance and intervention, as it undermines the traditional values attached to Western art canon.” MOCO 

Watch Tower, 2007, carved olive wood 

“Keep it real” Monkey, 2003, spray paint on paper cut-out on canvas
In the final analysis, Banksy’s message is simple and clear. 

Honthorststraat 20, Amsterdam


Images by TravelswithCharie


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