Banksy™ Mug

Banksy™ Mug
Mixed Media

Banksy

Mixed Media, 2019
Mixed Media

Critical Review

Capitalising on the famous line, ‘My child could have done that’ which can be overheard everywhere from Frieze art fair to Tate Britain, with this series of mugs Banksy asked children to replicate some of his more famous designs, and signed the results.

The original description on the website explains that the street artist was ‘required’ to release a range of mugs perhaps in reference to the statement that was displayed in the original Gross Domestic Products showroom in Croydon which explained that his ‘homewares’ line had come about as a result of a greeting card company attempting to copyright Banksy’s name. In order to prevent this the artist got there first which resulted in the trademark symbol being added to his name, effectively turning it into a brand. This could be seen as too little too late however, as hundreds and thousands of canny entrepreneurs and counterfeiters had already printed some of his most iconic artworks on tee shirts, fridge magnets and posters around the world.

Rather than opening a traditional retail shop, Banksy decided to give GDP a characteristic twist. As opposed to the first come first served model, prospective buyers were asked to fill out a short questionnaire in order to be considered for a purchase, making this more akin to a competition or lottery than the usual online shopping experience. As usual Banksy seemed to be both making fun of and typifying the commodification of artworks, on the one hand offering his work up at a low price in order to ensure it remained accessible and on the other, making his audience think about the process of buying art online and the ease with which late capitalism has made it possible for the gift shop to attract more visitors than the museum. Read more.

Released as a series, the mugs come in a ‘random selection of designs’, including some of the artist’s most well known iconography such as the rat which has come to represent Banksy’s central ethos as a graffiti artist.

Commenting on his choice of the rat as a symbol, Banksy has said, ‘If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.’ The rat is also a reference to the great street artist Blek le Rat who Banksy credits with inspiring his stencilled style. By asking kids to paint this design and more in his style he appears to be continuing this line of appropriation and imitation, encouraging younger generations to follow in his footsteps as a kind of Robin Hood figure in order to take from those who went before and to snub the tradition of intellectual property. As Picasso is often quoted as saying, ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal.’

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