Banksy’s artwork Donuts first appeared on a canvas in 2009 in the pink colourway – often called the ‘strawberry’ version, referring to the pink icing covering the donut. Unlike most of Banksy’s works, Donuts was never painted in the street. Soon after the canvas original was released, 299 signed Strawberry Donuts screenprints and 299 of the chocolate donut 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 stencil artwork represents an American police van surrounded and being escorted by American police officers on motorbikes. The blue and red flashing lights of the police vehicles and the oversized donut on top of the van are the only splashes of colour in the work.
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 escorting and protecting the American heads of state which also makes reference to Kennedy’s embarrassing blunder when he stated: “I am a Berliner” in a speech during a visit Berlin – which literally translates to, “I am a donut”.
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 Banksy’s work, famous for conveying socio and political messages through his art. Many messages can be found in this humorous and parodic composition:
The fast food icon of the sugary donut is synonymous with the American cop portrayed on TV and cinema, usually being consumed between snoozes by an overweight official during working hours. 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 officials wasting time on trivial matters.
The donut also symbolises American consumerism and 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 are, Because I'm Worthless, Applause, Bomb Hugger, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day.