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Stop
And Search

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Critical Review

Featuring the Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy and Toto, Banksy’s Stop and Search shows the protagonist’s basket being rifled through by a gloved policeman. Here, Dorothy is shown having her wicker basket searched by a uniformed police officer in a satirical take on the controversial stop and search legislation first introduced by the UK government in the '80s. A policy more recently criticised by much of the left for its unfair targeting of ethnic minorities.

Printed in black and white except for the blue of the policeman’s disposable gloves, the print shows Dorothy in her now iconic gingham dress, her face betraying her concern at her treatment. Played by Judy Garland in the 1939 film, Dorothy is typical of the harmless female character trope peddled by Hollywood throughout the 20th century - a girl portrayed as harmless and naive, and whose catchphrase ‘there’s no place like home’ represents her childhood innocence.

This is only reinforced by the presence of her little terrier Toto who represents further celebrated values of loyalty and companionship. This Banksy print therefore, subverts those traditional associations with the introduction of the officer clad in riot gear, intent on finding contraband items.

Why is Stop And Search important?

The stop and search policy, which allows a police officer to conduct a search of a person without a warrant or proof of wrongdoing, has become emblematic of the rise of the nanny state. By using such an innocent and naive character, Banksy shows that even the seemingly virtuous Dorothy is not safe from being controlled by the state, accentuating the absurdity of the policy itself. The screen print can also be read as a reference to immigration in which an innocent and harmless character – in the book and film Dorothy originally leaves home to search for a better place to live before realising she really belongs at home – with few belongings, seeking a better quality of life, is being checked and prevented from entering the state.

Why we love Stop And Search "Released in 2007 as a limited edition of 500 signed prints which are all numbered and signed with blue crayon, Stop And Search forms an important part of Banksy’s anti-establishment practice. Unlike many of his prints, Stop And Search was never painted on canvas or in the street however it bears similarities to his earlier Rude Copper mural which shows two police officers giving the viewer the finger." - Joe Syer

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