Rude Copper Banksy
Rude Copper is considered to be one of the first screen prints Banksy ever made. The design was first seen as a mural in London that featured two police officers. This version depicts a single policeman, stencilled in Banksy’s signature black and white style, giving the viewer the middle finger with startling effect – the perspective of the piece is so accomplished that his hand appears to come out of the frame. The figure wears the custodian helmet traditionally worn by police on patrol in England and Wales, recalling the vintage allure of neighbourhood ‘Bobbies on the Beat’ and tv programmes such as Heartbeat that romanticised the police force. Here the benevolent stereotype of the Bobby is turned on its head as the figure glares out at us, half in shadow, with an insolent stare, suggesting in fact that he might be an impersonator, rather than a true copper, who has adopted the uniform in a sharp satire of modern policing methods.
With this forceful gesture Banksy appears to be warning the public to be wary of the authorities, at the same time alluding to the law’s apparent disdain for the disadvantaged and perhaps even the widespread corruption and racism that has been reported among the police force in recent decades.
The artist is of course well known for his criticism of establishment figures. Similar works include Flying Coppers and Kissing Coppers as well as pieces such as Applause, CND Soldiers, Golf Sale, Happy Choppers and Have a Nice Day that seem to criticise the trivialisation of warfare, as well as Turf War, Queen Victoria and Monkey Queen, that mock some of the UK’s most historic rulers.
Rude Copper was Banksy’s first print to be made in conjunction with Steve Lazarides, the street artist’s agent in London. He made an extremely rare edition of 30 Rude Copper signed prints with hand-finished spray paint which are very much in demand, as well as 250 unsigned prints.