Artists as Protesters

I haven’t quite finished with protest art as I do want to look at artists who protest and protesters who become artists but I’ve had some mail I need to share. KM of Sydney sent me this photo of some Venezuelan women protesters.
(Credit: Violette Bule)

In 2012 in Caracas, a group of women wearing only red genie pants protested outside the doors of the institution where Henri Matisse's painting Odalisque in Red Trousers had mysteriously disappeared. This is the original.

The protesting women demanded its return. Venezuelan artist Violette Bule masterminded the protest, arranging the women in poses reminiscent of the 1925 post-impressionist work that had been replaced with a fake over a decade ago. You can read about it here. But I found the whole story somewhat confusing especially as my research lead me to find the original painting happily hanging in the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris!

But let us move onto some famous artists who are/were also protesters, British artist Banksy being the most notable in the last few years. As most of you would be aware Banksy is predominantly known as a graffiti artist though he does indulge in other styles but as far as I know all output is provocative.
(Photo Credit: Art News & Views)

The Hero Image today is Trolley Hunters a Banksy print which has a couple of interpretations: either that humans have innately been drawn to the addiction of consumerism since they began walking upright, or that the stupidity of the human race is such that they hunt down receptacles for their possessions...( The Trolley Hunters is part of the series known as The Barely Legal Print Set considered to be the most rare and valuable screen prints in urban art. ( Please follow the link to read the fascinating story about these particular Banksy prints.

As I post this blog there is an exhibition in Milan, Italy of about 80 of Banksy's works, including paintings, sculptures and prints, as well as record and CD covers he has designed. The solo show, organised by the Museum of Cultures is the first on Banksy organised by a public museum, apart from the one in Bristol put on by the artist, but that was a one-off performance, said curator Gianni Mercurio. The Italian show was organised without Banksy's say-so and was very difficult - it was like working with a ghost, he added. (
(Photo Credit: EPA-EFE)

The Milan Exhibition seeks to look at the influences on Banksy such as the Situationism Movement and the May 1968 student uprising in Paris. It explores key works such as Love Is In The Air, a stencilled graffiti which captures a man in the act of throwing flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail in a peaceful, but hard-hitting protest. Below is an image of a giclee print of the original.

Situationist International was a revolutionary alliance of European avant-garde artists, writers and poets formed at a conference in Italy in 1957 and dissolved in 1972. (

Banksy often uses animals to get his message across, especially a monkey or rats. Laugh Now (below) is from his early period of work.

It is a stencilled work in Banksy’s famous black and white signature style. It portrays a depressed looking monkey wearing a sandwich board which reads *Laugh Now, But One Day We’ll Be in Charge. The monkey’s heavy shoulders and his sunken eyes make him look oppressed and enslaved. One more time, Banksy uses animals to comment upon today’s society. The monkey – one of Banksy’s most iconic figure along with rats – is used to caricature the humans’ way of living and thinking. The sentence on the board appears like a catch phrase among others used by the artist to deliver a message of wisdom. Indeed the work depicts with sarcasm how humans are oppressed by capitalism.(

And this is the Haight Street Rat (San Francisco) but I believe it has been shown elsewhere. What is he holding? A marker pen I think!!

Because graffiti is illegal, Banksy's work continues to raise questions in the social sphere about the lines between public art and vandalism. If his work on the side of a building becomes a collectable, protected piece while another less known street artist is jailed for performing a similar action, what does this signify about the hypocrisy afforded to fame? (

Follow this link for more analysis of Banksy and his art style

For students of art I do recommend your take time to check out Banksy's site.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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