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Your Weapon

Banksy's Choose Your Weapon pays homage to Keith Haring, appropriating Haring's famous dog icon to imply that there are alternatives to violence, alluding to the idiom: “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Both Banksy and Haring choose art as their form of peaceful protest.

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Meaning & Analysis

First appearing in London in 2010, in Choose your Weapon Banksy nods to artist Keith Haring, by borrowing the New York-based artist’s Dog motif.

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, 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.

10 Facts About Banksy’s Choose Your Weapon

Choose Your Weapon (Light Orange) by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Choose Your Weapon (Light Orange) © Banksy 2010

1. When did Banksy's Choose Your Weapon first appear?

Banksy’s Choose Your Weapon, also called CYW, first appeared on a wall outside The Grange pub in Bermondsey, London, in 2010. The mural combined Banksy’s earlier graphic black and white stencil style with a more hyperrealist, three-dimensional figure.

To Discover London’s Top 12 Banksy Murals, see our article.

Barking Dog by Keith Haring - MyArtBroker

Barking Dog © Keith Haring 1990

2. Banksy's dog pays homage to 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) by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Choose Your Weapon (Bright Pink) © Banksy 2010

3. What is Banksy's inspiration for Choose Your Weapon?

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 this work was made. Here, Banksy compiles a complex and contradictory message, putting a spin on the idea of dogs as man’s best friend, by making 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, reminding us of the security of man’s best friend.

Choose Your Weapon (Queue Jumping Grey) by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Choose Your Weapon (Queue Jumping Grey) © Banksy 2010

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