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Banksy’s Festival, also known as Destroy Capitalism, is a three-colour screenprint from 2006 printed by Modern Multiples of Los Angeles. It depicts a group of people at a music festival queuing up to buy t-shirts. The artwork was made for Banksy’s iconic American exhibition, Barely Legal which took place in a warehouse in LA in 2006. Festival screenprints were part of Banksy’s Barely Legal Print Set, a set of six prints which includes the works Applause, Grannies, Morons, Trolleys and Sale Ends.
Festival is printed on a grey background, showing black and white stencilled figures in line at a merchandise booth at a music festival. The individuals in the queue are presented as punks, goths and hippies with their clothes, haircuts and attitudes representative of these subcultures to give the impression that they are attending an ‘alternative’ music festival. They represent what society might consider ‘misfits’ or anti-capitalists. But while their taste in music seems to demonstrate a disavowal of society, as they queue up to buy a $30 t-shirt their spending habits belie the trap capitalism holds for even its most fervent opponents.
The work can also be read as an ironic comment on how independent and anti-globalisation events, like alternative music festivals for example, have now become hypocritical versions of themselves, contradicting the usual motto of this audience. The irony of the work unintentionally reached its climax in 2013, however, when Walmart, the American multinational retail corporation which operates in 24 countries and thus embodies capitalism, sold a series of Banksy's Festival posters at a markup through their online marketplace. In retaliation, American artist Eddie Colla released a new print entitled It's Only Stealing If You Get Caught directly accusing Walmart of selling ‘glorified vandalism’.
Why is Festival important?
While they are numbered out of 500, only 100 Festival unsigned prints were originally released and sold at Banksy’s Los Angeles exhibition. There are also 150 signed prints and 17 artist proofs in circulation, but these never went on general sale. The Barely Legal Print Set, with its limited edition of prints, is among the most rare and valuable prints in urban art.
Why we love Festival… ‘Subversive as ever, Banksy has mastered the art of irony: friendly-looking elderly people happen to be punks, wars and bloodshed are meant to achieve peace, or the artist continues to wish you ‘a nice day’ while at war. Here the artist offers a characteristically twisted critique of both capitalism and anti-capitalists in his classic style.’ - Joe Syer
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