Banksy graffiti popped up in Kiev – how did it get there?

Is that how the mysterious artist arrived? There is a man, probably almost 50 years old, on the night train from Warsaw to Kiev, on which Western politicians also occasionally travel to the Ukrainian capital. From what you think you know about him, the man seems remarkably unremarkable. He may have a few spray cans in his luggage. But he prefers to keep that to himself.

Read more after the ad

Read more after the ad

The man is planning a spectacular campaign in the war-ravaged country to encourage people plagued by drone attacks and power outages: he secretly wants to spray graffiti.

Handstand on the rubble

We now know what can be seen in the photos: for example, a girl doing a handstand on the rubble, or a small judo fighter who forces an adult opponent who looks suspiciously like Vladimir Putin to the mat.

Read more after the ad

Read more after the ad

The mysterious street artist Banksy was in Ukraine. Works attributed to him have surfaced in Kiev, as well as in the heavily damaged suburbs of Borodyanka and Irpin.

The arrival could actually have happened in a similar way. But: “Banksy probably only had a USB stick with me with careful preparatory work,” says art historian and Banksy expert Ulrich Blanchè. The employee of the European Institute of Art History in Heidelberg has been following the British artist Banksy for years – as far as possible with someone who has remained anonymous to this day despite worldwide popularity. Some suspect Banksy to be Bristol street artist Robin Gunningham, who has since disappeared.

Years ago, Banksy’s spray-painted work on London’s house walls was considered vandalism, today every new work is applauded by the world’s public – and makes the homeowner rich, whether in London, New York or Hamburg. His art goes under the hammer at auction for millions of dollars. A few years ago, Time magazine named Banksy one of the most influential artists of all time: his artistic statements always contain a political message. The man is still a phantom today – and maybe that’s why it’s a phenomenon.

Tricky like in “Ocean’s Eleven”

According to Blanché’s considerations, Banksy probably bought only the necessary equipment and cut his stencils for his latest coup in Kiev. Banksy likes to work locally with a network of supporters. “When the situation calls for it, you have to imagine his perfectly choreographed actions, like in the gangster movie ‘Ocean’s Eleven’,” says Blanché. “A whole team then organizes diversionary maneuvers so that Banksy can spray in peace.”

Read more after the ad

Read more after the ad

+++ All current developments in Ukraine in our live blog +++

In this case, Banksy was probably out with the camera in Ukraine days or weeks beforehand, scouting out suitable locations. On Kiev’s Maidan Square, he found the metal tank trap, on which he placed two bobbing children. That’s what it looks like anyway: the seesaws are cunningly sprayed onto the wall behind them.

Blanché considers it very likely that the works are genuine. One of them – the handstand girl – has since been posted by Banksy on his Instagram channel. This is the usual confirmation that it was he who set political and artistic signs. For the other six graffiti photos, these certificates are missing, at least so far, but this play with authenticity is also typical: “Banksy will hardly make such a logistical effort to leave just one photo in the Ukraine,” says Blanché .

Featured Editorial Content

At this point you will find external content from Instagram, Inc., which complements the article. You can view it with one click.

I consent to external content being shown to me. This allows personal data to be passed on to third party platforms. More about this in our privacy statements.

Travel to problem areas

Very rarely has Banksy sent an assistant to act on his behalf in the past. But he later called it a mistake and it wasn’t his style, Blanché said. Banksy has ventured into problem areas in the past. He traveled both in the West Bank and in unsafe Mexican areas. “He puts his job on the line. A gun has been pointed at him before,” says the Banksy expert.

Read more after the ad

Read more after the ad

Blanché had almost waited for Banksy to show up for Christmas. “He does that a lot this time of year. Ukraine was an almost obvious target. The online communities have been speculating for days about the images that have surfaced around Kiev. I myself got the first hint on November 5.”

Since the 1990s, Banksy has criticized consumption, exploitation, war, environmental pollution and all kinds of injustice in his works. In the London Underground, he and his beloved rat drawings called for the wearing of protective masks during the corona pandemic. He always sides with the weak. He often portrays children and the elderly as particularly vulnerable groups.

With the millions he earns from his artworks, he financed a rescue ship for refugees in the Mediterranean in 2020. The aid organization Sea-Watch received an email at the time: “I’m an artist from the UK and I’ve done some work on the refugee crisis, of course I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to build a new ship? buy or anything else? Let me know. Well done. Banksie.”

Banksy constantly fights against co-optation by the art market, which he hates but which his guerrilla tactics deftly navigate. At a Sotheby’s auction, he even had one of his most famous photos – “Girl with Balloon” – shredded by a shredder hidden in the frame from the horrified public. According to Blanché, he cannot be represented by a gallery.

Read more after the ad

Read more after the ad

And now Banksy is on the streets of Kiev. Ukrainians enthusiastically expressed themselves on social networks: “Thank you for inspiring people with your work and reminding that the war is not over and many people, including children, are fighting for freedom,” one user commented on the photo Instagram . Official bodies have also responded: “We are stronger than David. They are weaker than Goliath,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry announced on Twitter, referring to the judo motif.

Banksy expert Blanché suspects that the layered images mean more to Ukrainians than we realize: the handstand girl seems to be a reference to Ukrainian gymnast Katya Dyachenko. The 11-year-old child was killed in a bomb attack on Mariupol in March. With Banksy, she can keep doing gymnastics on the rubble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *