Keep It Real is a spray paint and acrylic stencil on canvas made by renowned street artist Banksy in 2003. The artwork comes in an edition size of 15 and shows a miserable looking chimpanzee wearing a sandwich board that says ‘keep it real’. The chimpanzee is spray painted in the centre of the composition and rendered in black and white against a plain white backdrop.
The chimpanzee image has been reproduced in various iterations and is arguably one of Banksy’s most recognisable images along with Girl With Balloon. The chimpanzee takes on anthropomorphic qualities as he is standing, hunched over, just like a sad and disenchanted person would. The chimpanzee is staring at the ground, avoiding eye contact with the viewer of the artwork. Banksy has spray painted chimpanzees on streets, walls and bridges all over the world. The text on the sandwich boards differ with each iteration and frequently offer foreboding warnings about the future or satirical comments on the current state of society.
Keep It Real captures the essence of Banksy’s artistic style which is characterised by his use of the stencil technique. Banksy started off freehand spray painting however the artist realised that he could produce his drawings in a fraction of the time if he used stencils, as was done to achieve the chimpanzee in this canvas. Being able to rapidly produce artworks was a means for Banksy to avoid being caught by the police and preserve his anonymity.
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