prints & editions
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Also known as Destroy Capitalism, Banksy’s irreverent Festival, first produced in 2006, makes no secret of the artist’s anti-consumerist beliefs. A three-colour screenprint from 2006, printed by Modern Multiples of Los Angeles, it depicts a group of people at a music festival queuing up to buy t-shirts.
This Banksy print was made for his iconic Barely Legal exhibition, which took place in a warehouse in LA in 2006. Festival screenprints were part of the Barely Legal Print Set, a set of six prints which includes the works Applause, Grannies, Morons, Trolleys and Sale Ends.
The individuals depicted in the Festival queue are presented as punks, goths and hippies, with their clothes, haircuts and attitudes representative of these subcultures and giving the impression that they are attending an ‘alternative’ music festival. They represent what society might consider ‘misfits’ or perhaps anti-capitalists, but while their taste in music seems to demonstrate a disavowal of society, as they queue up to buy a $30 t-shirt their spending habits belie the trap capitalism holds for even its most fervent opponents.
The work can also be read as an ironic comment on how independent and anti-globalisation events, like alternative music festivals, for example, have now become hypocritical versions of themselves, contradicting the usual motto of their audiences.
The irony of the work unintentionally reached its climax in 2013, however, when Walmart, the American multinational retail corporation which operates in 27 countries and thus embodies capitalism, sold a series of Banksy's Festival posters at a markup through their online marketplace. In retaliation, American artist Eddie Colla released a new print entitled It's Only Stealing If You Get Caught directly accusing Walmart of selling ‘glorified vandalism’.
Festival (Destroy Capitalism) © Banksy 2006
Resisting capitalism is futile, claims Banksy. In his print Festival, a line of customers queuing up to buy a ‘Destroy Capitalism’ t-shirt are dressed like punks, goths and hippies – all subcultures that actively rally against mainstream capitalist culture – yet they are, ironically, willing to pay US$30 for the t-shirt.
Banksy seems to say that even these nonconformists have been tricked into supporting the system, or were never nonconformists at all. Likewise, he suggests that formerly independent music festivals like Glastonbury have been assimilated into mainstream culture, and subcultures like punk no longer seem as rebellious as they once were.
Festival (Destroy Capitalism) © Banksy 2006
Like many of Banksy’s prints and murals, Festival has more than one title: the second is Destroy Capitalism, taken from the slogan printed on the featured t-shirt. This second title directly conveys the anti-capitalist message behind the print.
The full set of 6 prints, which Festival was released as a part of. (Barely Legal LA Set © Banksy 2006)
Banksy’s Festival print was first released at his momentous Barely Legal exhibition in Los Angeles in 2006. Visitors had the chance to buy a special portfolio called Barely Legal (LA Set), which contained Festival, and five other prints: Grannies, Applause, Sale Ends, Trolleys, and Morons. Although 500 unsigned prints were made for each series, only 100 were released for the exhibition. This makes the Barely Legal prints among the artist’s rarest and most sought-after editions, and even more valuable when sold as a complete set.
After Barely Legal closed, Los Angeles-based printers Modern Multiples were ordered to destroy the plates for the six prints, so they could never be reproduced without the involvement of Banksy’s UK-based printer at the time, Pictures On Walls.
Another Banksy print, Very Little Helps, where Banksy subverts the tactics of marketing campaigns. (Very Little Helps © Banksy 2008)