Banksy's Protect From All Elements

Year: 2013
Medium: Mixed Media
Dimensions: 58 x 44cm
Last Hammer: £195,420 (Christie’s New York, 2013)
Signed/Unsigned: Signed
This work by Banksy, done on the side of a wooden crate, shows a stencilled elephant wearing a missile strapped onto its back. The words Fragile and Protect From All Elements frame the animal.Protect From All Elements © Banksy 2013
Joe Syer

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Intertwining a poignant narrative of animal abuse and societal militarisation, Protect From All Elements is a mixed media work by Banksy, created in 2013. The artwork is an arrestingly simple yet powerful stencil rendering of an elephant weighed down by a missile, stark against the wooden canvas that proclaims a need for protection—both literal and figurative. This artistic choice instils a depth that goes beyond the visual, as if the pachyderm is fading under the weight it carries—perhaps an allusion to the fading line between militaristic ventures and the conservation of nature.

Protect From All Elements: Meaning and Analysis

Executed in 2013, Protect From All Elements is an artistic statement metaphorically highlighting the marginalised and the oppressed, wrapped in Banksy's well-recognised stencil style. At 58x44cm, the artwork depicts an elephant ensnared in an unnatural burden: a missile strapped upon its back. The contrast between an animal renowned for its intelligence and might and a distinctly human threat is jarring. Above the potent image, the word 'fragile' looms, a pointed juxtaposition that is classic Banksy—conjuring thoughts of both the fragility of life and the destructive power of human warfare. This simple word, often slapped on boxes containing precious goods, becomes a stark commentary when set above a weapon of destruction.

Banksy's craftsmanship extends to the medium itself; the wooden crate, typically used to protect valuable items, becomes part of the narrative. It is framing the subject as a commodity and emphasising the objectification and commodification inherent in our interactions with the natural world. In the text below the image, Protect From All Elements is more than a caption; it is also a plea, a command, a statement of irony that resonates with the viewer. It is as if Banksy implores us to shield the most defenceless amongst us from the very elements we have created: war, environmental havoc, and neglect. The elephant, rendered with the roughness and immediacy of white acrylic against the grain of the wood, appears almost spectral. Banksy utilises transparency within the black outlines to create a ghostly effect, amplifying the sense of exploitation and weariness that the image conveys. Banksy's signature stencil technique, employed so effectively in Protect From All Elements, is a means of creating quick, reproducible art that often appears in public spaces. However, in this context, the stencilled elephant is confined to the wooden crate, a sort of gallery space, that is both its canvas and its prison.

“Banksy critiques the commodification of wildlife, presenting the elephant as both a spectral figure and a confined commodity, urging protection for the vulnerable from the harsh elements we have created.”

Joe Syer
Joe Syer,Co-Founder & Specialist,MYArtbroker

Banksy, Animals and Elephants

The work is an extension of Banksy's enduring exploration into violence and animal rights, motifs that have vigorously pulsed through his oeuvre since its inception. Protect From All Elements dialogues with earlier works such as Barcode where Banksy portrayed a leopard against a cage that morphs into a barcode, critiquing animal exploitation with visual puns that strike at the heart of consumerism. Even further, it harks back to his own works with the animal, including the literal “elephant in the room” that he created for the show Barely Legal or his moving works featuring the Disney character Dumbo, including the video Rebel Rocket Attack. In this case, the narrative of the elephant – a revered and mighty creature of the natural world that is known for its intelligence – becoming a bearer of weapons, invites introspection on the heartlessness of the human condition. It is an evocative reminder that while humanity advances technologically, the ethical implications of such progress can weigh heavily upon the very essence of our planet's life.

The elephant in Protect From All Elements is emblematic of Banksy's unique ability to blend the stark reality of exploitation with the surreal nature of his art. It is a reminder that while the natural world is resilient, it is not impervious to the man-made constructs that threaten to overpower it. This artwork, with its stark imagery and ironic textual elements, offers another potent commentary on the ways in which modern societies exploit animals and the natural world for unethical purposes. Banksy's work does not just reflect on the exploitation of animals but implores us to consider the broader ramifications of our actions on the world at large. Through a simple image and a few carefully chosen words, Banksy manages to invoke a dialogue that is as relevant today as it was in 2013. It is a call to action, a reminder of our shared fragility, and a plea to protect our planet from the elements of destruction we have unleashed.

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