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Risky Business

Show Me The Monet, Banksy

I learned about Banksy one day back in middle school when one of my teachers was out sick and had left the substitute with a documentary for us to watch, Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop. To my surprise, this was the first time one of these videos was actually interesting. I don't think I blinked once gazing at the projected screen on the whiteboard amazed for the entire fifty minutes of class. At the sound of the bell at the end of class, I grew extremely disappointed as we had not gotten through the entire movie. I waited impatiently until the end of the school day to be able to go home and do the research that would inform me on everything I had missed. By the end, I had become an expert on Banksy. I had learned all about his controversial image as an artist given that he chooses to focus mostly on street art and graffiti. Due to his chosen media, he remains the main topic of conversation when it comes to those debates that argue over whether or not graffiti falls under the category of art.

It amazes me that Banksy has remained active since the 90s and has managed to keep up his anonymous identity to the day of today. In the span of time, he has often been referred to as one of the most influential people of the 20th century. This is because he discusses his thoughts on the subjects of art, philosophy and politics while also incorporating dark humor in ways that have never been seen before. In the 2000s, he found his signature style of stenciling after months of looking for a way to improve his speed. This was after an instance where he almost got caught vandalizing a space and had to hide under a van for a long time to avoid being found by police. It was there that he noticed stenciled letters spray painted into the side of a truck and found his solution.

One of Banksy's most famous exhibitions is his Crude Oils exhibition that took place in London in 2005. This exhibition was a gallery of his reworked pieces of various famous paintings from artists like Andy Warhol, Van Gogh and Claude Monet. These artworks are known for their interesting spins portraying bold statements. My favorite piece from this gallery is Show Me the Monet, which was later sold for £7.5m at an auction. This is Banksy's recreation of Claude Monet's famous painting, The Water Lily Pond yet he adds his own special twist on it by illustrating abandoned grocery store carts and an orange traffic cone floating down in the water and disrupting the beauty of nature. In my eyes, this is a striking remark at the human disregard towards the environment. Banksy here shines a light on a big social issue that is going on today as he protests against the excess of consumerism and overall ignorance. The funny thing about this exhibition is that although he made admissions free of charge, Banksy released 200 live RATS into the gallery while it took place to leave it up to viewers to decide whether or not they were willing to enter.

Another one of Banksy’s famous exhibitions is his Turf War exhibition which was held in East London in 2003. For it, he painted live animals in an attempt to make different political remarks. For instance, he painted pigs in police colors, sheep in concentration camp stripes and even a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on a chimpanzee. This exhibition’s location was not revealed until the day before it began, which allowed Banky to flee the scene and continue to conceal his identity.

It is Banksy's sacrifice for fame, money and way of risking everything for art that makes him so remarkable. Because he chooses to remain anonymous and therefore receiving no compensation for his artworks at auctions, it is easy to that his intentions are purely based on making art, moving people and doing his part to create change in the world. This allows there to be no limits to his creativity--something that is so daring, unique and clever which is incredibly inspiring to me. I hope to one day reach the same ability to create goosebumps among my audience and leave them in the uttermost shock. Whether that’d be done in a rebellious and prominent or calm and subtle manner, this is something that should always be praised.

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