Very Little Helps is a printed edition of an image by Banksy, that first appeared as a stenciled work on the side of a pharmacy building along Essex Road in North London. Produced in 2008, the print is a mirror image of the original street art piece.

Very Little Helps by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Banksy’s Very Little Helps

1. What is Very Little Helps About?

Very Little Helps shows a group of three children surrounding a flag pole. Two children look on, hands over their hearts, pledging allegiance to the standard being raised by the third child. At the top of the flag pole is not a flag or a banner, but a plastic Tesco’s bag. The artwork is produced predominantly in black, white and pale blue, the bag stands out in white, a darker shade of blue, and red.

In Very Little Helps, Banksy comments on the power wielded by superstore brands, and the power of consumerism over the public at large, from the smaller shops and businesses they replace, to small children.

2. Where else do we see Banksy comment on consumerism?

Banksy’s artworks are often highly politicised, frankly addressing consumerism and capitalism. In Napalm, Banksy illustrates the horrors of war, drawing direct parallels between the atrocities inflicted on children and global superbrands like Mcdonalds and Disney. The print shows Mickey Mouse and Ronald MacDonald holding the hand of a naked, injured girl. This image of the child is taken directly from a very famous and shocking image from 1972 from the Vietnam War. Both characters look away from the child, waving to an invisible, adoring crowd.

Napalm by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Banksy’s Napalm

3. Why does Banksy feature children in Very Little Helps?

In Very Little Helps Banksy uses the three children pictured to deliver his message in a softer, more lighthearted way. Banksy often uses humour to illustrate a point, and although we understand the weight and significance of the statement the artist makes, the earnest faces of the children pictured evoke a smile in the viewer. Conversely, their innocence highlights the perceived naivety with which we accept the dominance and power of these juggernaut powerhouses of consumerism.

4. What is the significance of children in Banksy’s other artworks?

Children feature throughout Banksy’s work, and have become a recognisable tool used by the artist to help strengthen the weight of the messages he depicts in his work. The figure of ‘Girl with Balloon’ from one of Banksy’s best known artworks has become synonymous with the artist, acting as a trademark image for his work.

Nola, also known as Umbrella Girl or Rain Girl, was created by Banksy in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a devastating time for the city which could have been avoided had the government funded flood defences.  A girl holds an umbrella over her head, only to find that the rain is coming from within its canopy. Banksy comments on a childlike trust we have in the protective function of government, when often they are the source of the problem.

Nola by Banksy - MyArtBroker

Banksy’s Nola

5. Did Very Little Helps originally exist as a mural?

Like so many of Banksy’s artworks, Very Little Helps was originally a mural and first appeared painted on the side of a pharmacy on Essex Road in North London in 2008. The mural immediately picked up media attention and was then vandalised by a rival of Banksy’s, King Robbo. Following this the work was placed under protective perspex.

The rivalry between Banksy and King Robbo

The rivalry between Banksy and King Robbo started in 2006, when Banksy painted over an older work by King Robbo, made in 1985. The work had previously been defaced and tagged by other artists, but Banksy’s new work, a decorator wallpapering a grey wall, mostly covered what remained of King Robbo’s work.

King Robbo then painted over Banksy’s work so that the decorator appeared to be tagging the wall with the words ‘King Robbo’. Banksy then changed the words to ‘Fucking Robbo’.

The feud continued with several other defacements and new artworks appearing in the space. When Robbo tragically died, Banksy painted a flammable spray can with a flame, by way of a vigil for his rival artist.

Very little helps

‘Very Little Helps,’ by carnagenyc. CC BY-NC 2.0.

6. When was Very Little Helps released as a limited edition print?

In 2008 Banksy released Very Little Helps as a limited edition of 299 signed prints, the same year that the original artwork appeared on the side of a pharmacy in North London.

7. The editioned prints of Very Little Helps raised money for charity

The print edition of Very Little Helps was released by Banksy’s printer at the time, ‘PicturesOnWalls,’ on the company’s first and only open day in December 2008. The open day included a tour of the factory, live printing sessions, graffiti activities and a lottery, where the lucky winner had exclusive access to buy a Very Little Helps print for the discounted price of £350. The price of each lottery ticket was donated to the charity, ‘Sightsavers,’ raising over £24,000 for the cause.

8. What is the highest price paid for a Very Little Helps print?

The highest price paid on the secondary market for a Very Little Helps print was JPY 13,915,00 (£96,998). This was auctioned at SBI Art Auction in Tokyo in January 2021.

9. Where does the title ‘Very Little Helps’ come from?

The words ‘Very Little Helps’ come from Tesco’s own slogan ‘Every Little Helps’. Tesco’s implication is that their stores are helping the public ‘little by little’. Banksy’s adjustment turns this statement on its head – who is Tesco’s helping? Certainly not these children. Tesco’s power and dominance is self serving – the bag pictured is not abundant with nutritious groceries but empty, flapping in the wind. And yet it continues to be the subject of idolisation.

Soup Cans Quad (red and blue on grey) by Banksy

Banksy’s Soups Cans (Quad)

10. Where else has Banksy used Tesco’s in his artwork?

Banksy’s Soup Can prints also reference Tesco. Heavily influenced by Andy Warhol’s series of the same name, the cans shown in Banksy’s prints imitate the supermarket’s old style branding for their low budget range. The prints were produced both as a single print edition, and as a group of four known as Soup Cans (Quad).

Both series of artworks mirror the messages conveyed through Very Little Helps. Unlike Warhol’s series Banksy’s Soup Cans come in just one flavour, pointing to the monotony of surviving on a low budget. In Soup Cans (Quad) the cans have golden lids; in stark contrast these reference the fortunes being created by large corporations at the expense of poorer communities.

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