Banksy Trend Report Q1
Banksy™ Cushions

Banksy™ Cushions
Mixed Media


Mixed Media, 2019
Mixed Media
H 40cm x W 40cm

Critical Review

From the ubiquitous ‘Keep calm and carry on’ to ‘Today I choose joy’ these days it’s hard to avoid an inspirational – and often saccharine – message. As well as appearing on your Instagram feed against a background of slick nature photography these also feature on keep cups, greeting cards and of course cushions.

Here Banksy cleverly subverts the genre with a pair of cushions that simply state ‘Life’s too short to take advice from a cushion’. While immediately funny to the reader these also present an empathetic response to those who feel overwhelmed by the barrage of positivity hawked by homewares brands and Instagram influencers that can often make the average person feel inadequate when faced with their own negative feelings. In a world where structural inequality and austerity prevents many from ‘chasing their dreams’ it is easy to feel embittered by cushions proclaiming that ‘the only limit is your imagination’.

One of the most highly sought after products in Banksy’s Gross Domestic Product shop, each pair of cushions is unique, as they are ‘upcycled’ from ‘what gets found in the charity shop’. With their tongue in cheek message they are perfectly at home in the work of Banksy whose particular brand of dark humour, which often relies on wordplay to poke fun at the state and figures of authority, has brought him many fans.

At the time of the GDP launch many of Banksy’s artworks had already been made into cushions by entrepreneuring companies who took advantage of the artist’s lack of trademark to produce soft furnishings featuring his famous Girl With Balloon or Flower Thrower artworks, allowing fans to buy their own little bit of subversive street art, now neatly and cheaply commercialised. In fact the GDP shop came about as a result of one of these companies taking action to acquire the rights to the artist’s name; with this venture Banksy ensured he retained control over the line of products released with his designs and could now show the imitators to be counterfeiters.

The move to open a shop was received with mixed feelings by fans and critics. While some commented, “A cushion with the inscription 'Life’s too short to take advice from a cushion'? SOLD!” and “I need Banksy’s whole new GDP shop collection.”, others saw GDP as a further ‘selling out’ on the artist’s part, commenting, “Wasn’t Banksy supposed to be art for the people without the need for payment? We all need money to survive I suppose…” and “All of this is really cool stuff but doesn’t the online website kinda go against the whole anti-consumerism idea portrayed in all his art?” With this work and the whole GDP project Banksy proved once again to be the kind of artist that tows the line between accessibility and commercialisation, his artworks cum products both deriding and embodying the very structures he claims to be against.

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