Banksy's Flag prints parody Joe Rosenthal's iconic photograph 'Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima' by replacing the US marines with urban youths clambering onto a derelict car. The reworked photo criticises Western imperialism, which takes pride in military conquest abroad while ignoring the disenfranchisement of its own youth.
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Referencing the iconic photograph: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal, Banksy’s Flag is a largely monochromatic print first produced in 2006.
Unlike the original photo, which depicts six US Marines lifting the Stars and Stripes atop mount Suribachi, this Banksy print replaces these men with children who clamber onto a derelict car. The children’s dress and their environment presents them as disenfranchised urban youths, and with only one touch of colour – represented by a large gold or silver (according to the edition) sun or moon – the scene bears a rather mournful tone.
The first iteration of Flag appeared at Santa’s Ghetto, Banksy’s contemporary art gallery and amusement arcade on London’s Oxford Street. The artist told The Guardian that he felt, ‘the spirit of Christmas was being lost’ so, in a 23-day show Banksy offered the public the opportunity to view and buy affordable works by some of the world’s finest underground artists.