Banksy is a British spray painter known for his distinctive use of stencils, a method he refers to by its technical term - cheating. This piece was conceived as a response to the 2017 blockbuster Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican in London. The Barbican is an immense private estate near the financial district policed by its own surveillance and security force. Banksy’s aim was to question how accepting such a neighbourhood would be of a scruffy, drug enabled black man - if he hadn’t already been safely dead for 30 years and worth billions of dollars.
Using Basquiat’s self-portrait ‘Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump’ as his source, Banksy illegally painted this satire of Police harassment as close to the exhibition entrance as possible.
As previously with Banksy there followed a kind of impromptu postmodern circus - where those targeted by his critique chose to protect rather than remove the graffiti, offering guided tours to snapping visitors in the process. An outcome that left many pondering whether it is possible for an artist to question the ruthless commodification of art without becoming ruthlessly commodified in the process.