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Shortly after the stencil first appeared on the street, it was boarded over. It then reappeared, framed and covered in Perspex. In August 2016, it was reported that the Perspex itself had been covered in posters and flyers obscuring it from view entirely. It is unknown if the work still exists in the same location, or if it is just obscured from view.
In December 2010 Pictures On Walls released limited edition Banksy prints depicting the mural to hordes of fans, many of whom queued for hours in the cold to get their hands on this coveted work. The queue notoriously spiralled out of control, with desperate fans pushing and shoving, and which resulted in Banksy releasing a special queue jumping edition in grey for those who missed their chance.
The collection of prints is available in a variety of different colours: Bright Pink, Dark Blue, Dark Orange, Gold, Green, Khaki, Lemon, Light Orange, Magenta, Olive, Grey (Queue Jump), Red, Silver, Sky Blue, Slate, Soft Yellow, Turquoise and White. They depict a hooded man with dark clothing and a bandana hiding his face, a visual motif recurrent in Banksy’s stencil work and meant to signify a British disaffected youth. His menacing appearance is contrasted by his casual hand-in-the-pocket posture and his cartoon dog, who is chained and barking.
The connotation in much of the media at the time, and in Banksy’s own interpretation, is that the dog has become an alternative weapon on the streets of the UK.
The minimalist animal, painted in a hieroglyphic all-white silhouette, is in contrast to the hyper-realistic representation of his master and the style is a clear nod to American pop artist Keith Haring whose Barking Dog is one of the most recognised motifs of contemporary art in the 1980s. Like Banksy, Haring too rose to prominence through his graffiti drawings, making him an important influence for the street artist.
Choose Your Weapon is a striking portrayal of British disaffected youth and gang culture whose aggressive dogs have become seen as weaponry in their quest for power. However the reference to Haring, and the harmless nature of the stylised dog puts a characteristic spin on this message – here Banksy invites us to 'choose our weapon', to turn stigma and prejudice into kindness and peace.
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Choose Your Weapon (Light Orange) © Banksy 2010
Barking Dog © Keith Haring
The dog featured in Choose Your Weapon is a motif that appeared in the work of Keith Haring, a pioneer of graffiti art in New York in the 1980s. Haring was known for his social commentary and activism, and is an important influence on Banksy’s work. Including Haring’s Barking Dog emphasises Banksy’s call for peace and the value of art in achieving this.
Choose Your Weapon (Bright Pink) © Banksy 2010
Choose Your Weapon addresses the trend of disaffected youth owning aggressive dogs as weapons – an issue that was receiving a lot of media attention at the time. In this work, Banksy compiles a complex and often contradictory message. He puts a spin on the idea of dogs as man’s best friend, and makes him man’s enemy.
But, even though Haring’s Barking Dog has been weaponised, its cartoon nature and its connotations to social justice make it seem harmless. Banksy aims to turn the prejudice and violence of gang culture back into the progressive nature of art and the security of man’s best friend.
Choose Your Weapon (Queue Jumping Grey) © Banksy 2010