New Banksy work in London
When I first returned to London, over 10 years ago, I took for granted that I could regularly spot street art by Banksy. There were two I could see every time I took a bus into town and one right near my home, metres away. I hadn’t discovered my inner streetart lover at that point, so I enjoyed them but never took any photos.
Was it in 2010 when Bansky’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop came out that his popularity soared? That would make sense because it was around this time that these works became either defaced or vanished entirely. Oh how I wish I had photographed them at the time.
Fast forward to the 24th January 2016 when photographs appeared on Instagram of a new Banksy in London. I avoid TV news these days and I hadn’t realised it was being widely reported. And IG didn’t say where it was initially. On Monday morning, when I checked my IG feed, I saw that someone had placed it opposite the French Embassy in Knightsbridge. It was 8am, I was working from home, so I skipped breakfast, flung some clothes on and headed over there with my camera.
I mostly travel London by bus and I saw no reason not to that morning. It was 8.15am when I left. And as I trundled passed the defaced Banksy on the Essex Road, now preserved under perspex, I realised that this new work might no longer be there. I expected it to have been stolen over night but when I arrived I was thrilled to see it was still there! If looking a little battered already.
The narrow strip of pavement in front of it was full people – fans and the press, so I had to wait my turn for a decent position to get a clear shot.
The work, a mixture of a paste-up and painting, had been placed on plywood covering a building undergoing renovation at the moment. This woman was explaining to a journalist how the workman had tried to crow bar it off earlier that morning. However, they quickly realised that would only damage the work and they left it for us to see.
Another member of the public explained to me that the work was attached to a very thin layer of plywood and that was screwed or attached to a thicker one beneath it. And that is why the art was would be damaged if levered off. Clever Banksy, I thought.
The image depicted is of a young girl Cosette, as she appears on the poster for the musical Les Miserables, a blockbuster stage show that is still running in London’s West End 30 years later. Cosette, for those that aren’t already familiar with Victor Hugo’s story, is an orphaned child of an unmarried mother and one of society’s most vulnerable people. In Banksy’s work she is crying because she is being gassed by CS gas.
On the bottom left hand corner of the plywood was a bar code which if you scanned it with your phone would take you to a video about the French authorities tear gassing any refugees in their camps on Calais who caused trouble.
I’ve heard people ask why is this work in London if the camps are in France? I can think of a number of reasons. Placing the work in London draws fresh news coverage to the situation in Calais because there hasn’t been a new Banksy here for sometime. The refugees are there because they hope to leave and arrive in the UK. The image is from the poster of a long running British West End show. And yes the camp has been there for 20 years but now the situation is becoming more desperate. So Bansky saw an opportunity with building opposite the French Embassy boarded up for renovation and seized it.
As I stood and watched what was going on around me a number of genuine Banksy fans stopped and asked me to take their picture with their phone of them standing in front of the work.
The work was covered up not long after I left that morning. And I doubt it is even there now. So another Banksy work has been and gone from London.
Political Street Art and Furia139’s Donald Trump portrait.
I saw a familiar face in the crowd that morning, a fellow streetart blogger from London Calling Blog. After getting our photos of the new Banksy, we travelled back to Shoreditch to see work from a recent paint jam that London Calling Blog had organised to celebrate their first year of blogging. I had been to the first day of the jam that weekend but couldn’t make day 2.
One of the works that I had missed being painted was this portrait by Portuguese artist Furia139. As this portrait is also making a political statement, I thought I’d include it in this post about the new Banksy piece.
Initially Furia139 wasn’t going to paint such a political statement but he really wanted to and he went for it. I heard that he even provided eggs for passersby to throw at it afterwards. You could still see the remains of eggs shells stuck to it.
And now this portrait has gone too. Painted over in red.
Street artists are not afraid to make controversial statements to challenge those in power. And I’m sure they will continue to do so.