Stop and Search Banksy
Featuring Dorothy, the protagonist of beloved book and film The Wizard of Oz, Banksy’s Stop and Search print is characteristic of the street artist’s biting wit. Here Dorothy is shown having her wicker basket searched by a uniformed police officer in a satirical take on the controversial stop and search legislation first introduced by the UK government in the 80s and recently demonised by much of the left for its unfair targeting of ethnic minorities.
Printed in black and white except for the blue of the policeman’s disposable gloves, the print shows Dorothy in her now iconic gingham dress, her face showing a look of concern at the man rummaging through her picnic basket. Played by Judy Garland in the 1939 film, Dorothy is the archetypal female character of early to mid 20th century films whose catchphrase ‘there’s no place like home’ typifies the innocent persona of young femininity. This is only reinforced by the presence of her little terrier Toto who represents further celebrated values of loyalty and companionship. Here Banksy subverts those traditional associations with the introduction of the officer clad in riot gear, intent on finding contraband items.
The policy, which allows a police officer to stop and search a person without suspicion, has become emblematic of the rise of the nanny state. By using such an innocent and naive character, Banksy shows that even the seemingly virtuous Dorothy is not safe from being controlled by the state, accentuating the absurdity of the policy itself. The screen print can also be read as a reference to immigration in which an innocent and harmless character – in the book and film Dorothy originally leaves home to search for a better place to live before realising she really belongs at home – with few belongings, seeking a better quality of life, is being checked and prevented from entering the state.
Released in 2007 as a limited edition of 500 signed prints which are all numbered and signed with blue crayon, Stop and Search forms an important part of Banksy’s anti-establishment practice. Unlike many of his prints, Stop and Search was never painted on canvas or in the street however it bears similarities to his earlier Rude Copper mural which shows two police officers giving the viewer the finger.