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Banksy’s Donuts first appeared on a canvas in 2009 in the pink colourway – often called the ‘strawberry’ version, in reference to the pink icing covering the donut. Unlike most of Banksy’s works, Donuts was never painted in the street. Soon after the canvas was released, 299 signed Strawberry Donuts screenprints and 299 signed Chocolate Donuts version were released. The number of prints released – 299 for each flavour – is said to be a reference to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts’ financial troubles in 2007, when it closed down 299 stores.
Banksy’s stencilled artwork shows an American police van topped by a large pink donut being escorted by American police officers on motorbikes. Despite the ridiculousness of the situation, the policemen have grave expressions. The assumption is, in this largely monochromatic composition, that the donut is being protected by the police. The convoy with motorbikes evokes the motorcade that traditionally escorts and protectis American heads of state and also makes reference to Kennedy’s embarrassing blunder when he said: ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ in a speech during a visit to Berlin – which literally translates to, ‘I am a donut’.
A number of interpretations and references can be read in this humorous composition: the fast food icon of the sugary donut is synonymous with the American cop portrayed on TV and in cinema. It has even inspired its own insult, 'Officer Donut'. The artwork parodies this theme, calling into question the ethics and values of the authorities, seemingly protecting what they hold most dear, and perhaps communicating a further comment over the safety of the people under the protection of these greedy officials wasting time on trivial matters.
The donut also symbolises American commercialism – the police clearly appear to be protecting this icon of Western society’s consumerism.
Finally the donut itself can also refer to the American Dream: a flawless, appealing sugar-coated façade, but one with a big hole in it which needs to be protected from any form of attack. Whatever the message may be, the ridiculousness of the situation turns this artwork into a humorous and satirical piece.
As ever, Banksy pokes fun at the value society places on commercialism and government. Other works that reference this central theme in Banksy’s work include Because I'm Worthless, Applause, Bomb Hugger, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day.
Why is Donuts important?
Though the composition seems light-hearted at first glance, a closer examination reveals Banksy’s more complex statement about the American police and the authorities in general. Ridiculing the police and the military is a central theme in the work of Banksy, who is famous for conveying powerful socio political messages through his art.
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