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I Fought The Law

Banksy's satirical I Fought The Law prints are based on footage of the failed attempt on President Reagan’s life in 1981. The would-be assassin wields a paintbrush rather than a gun; this reinvention, which also changes the title of The Clash's hit number, probes authority’s reactive nature and the risks of rebellion.

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Meaning & Analysis

Based on footage of the 1981 failed assassination attempt on President Reagan, I fought the Law is one of Banksy’s more politically charged works. Pictures on Walls released the screen print in 2004 as editions of just 150 signed and 500 unsigned. Banksy also created 32 artist’s proofs, eight each of the four colours: orange, pink, yellow and red.

Engaged in a violent struggle, this Banksy print depicts one man being pinned down by three others, whilst a fourth onlooker watches the scene from the right. The man on the ground has dropped a paintbrush, with which he has just scrawled the words ‘I Fought The Law And I Won’ in bright orange paint on the wall behind.

The four characters on the left depict the members of President Reagan’s private security team tackling John Hinckley, a delusional schizophrenic who fired five bullets at President Reagan on 30 March 1981. But with true Banksy wit, the criminal in I Fought The Law is a graffiti artist, instead of a killer.

The text references the title of the song I Fought The Law (and The Law Won) by The Clash from 1979. A second instance of the British rock band’s influence on Banksy’s work can also be seen in his mural portraying a punk smashing an office chair, appropriating the cover artwork from their 1979 album, London Calling.