Have Yourself A Very Banksy Christmas
News / Banksy

Have Yourself A Very Banksy Christmas

Dec 18, 2020

How are you spending Christmas Day 2020? In a social bubble with the people who wind you up the most? Or alone with a Greggs Festive Bake from Just Eat? Whatever your day looks like, we can’t think of a more Banksy Christmas than this year’s – the artist has traditionally used the festive season to highlight political causes and issues, and he’ll have plenty of material to work with from the past 12 months. We’ve already had a coronavirus piece from the enigmatic artist (Aachoo!, which depicts a sneezing elderly woman, appeared on Vale Street, Bristol, in early December). At the time of writing however, it’s impossible to know whether any more new work will emerge during festive season. Instead, we’ve played Ghost of Christmas Past and rounded up his best bits from years gone by. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays from all of us at Hang-Up!

Toxic Mary, 2003, spray paint on two panels

Toxic Mary, 2003, spray paint on two panels

Christmas Bench, 2019

Homelessness was the theme for Banksy’s 2019 Christmas piece, in which he painted two reindeer leaping into flight, harnessed to a real public bench on a busy road in Birmingham. In a video posted to the artist’s Instagram, homeless man Ryan is seen making himself comfortable for the night on the bench while the song ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ plays in the background. Though the work highlighted the tragic plight of those sleeping rough on the UK’s streets, Banksy was able to share some positivity in the accompanying caption: he explained that Ryan had been given a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter by passers-by during the 20 minutes it had taken to film the segment.

Christmas Bench captioned by Banksy as 'God Bless Birmingham', 2019

Christmas Bench captioned by Banksy as 'God Bless Birmingham', 2019

Scar of Bethlehem, 2019

Appearing overnight in Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, this reimagined Nativity scene places Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in the shadow of the West Bank barrier rather than in a traditional stable. There’s no star to light the way for the shepherds and wise men either: instead, mortar shell damage creates a star-shaped hole high above the trio, while faded letter forms on the wall shout ‘love’ and ‘paix’. Banksy has remained tight-lipped about the installation, but the hotel itself was set up as a comment on restriction of movement in the local area and it’s easy to imagine the couple being turned away as they tried to cross the Israeli-Palestinian border. Scar of Bethlehem has proved an enduring image for many: you can now buy representations on everything from cushions to face masks.

Scar of Bethlehem, 2019

Scar of Bethlehem, 2019

Snow, 2018

In 2018, the Welsh town of Port Talbot was covered in a scattering of black dust from its steel plant. It was the same year that the World Health Organisation mistakenly declared it the most polluted town in Britain and, though they later retracted their statement, the muck stuck. That Christmas, Banksy painted a little boy onto a private garage near the steel plant. The boy had a sledge by his feet and his arms were outstretched joyfully as he poked his tongue out to taste what looked like snow. On closer inspection however, the specks falling from the sky were actually coming from a fire in a burning steel barrel, painted by Banksy onto another one of the garage walls. The painting was a huge local hit and thousands came to visit it, prompting an art dealer to buy it and remove it the following year.

Snow, 2018

Snow, 2018

The Alternativity, 2017

Inspired by Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony, which he thought made Britain ‘look cool’, Banksy wrote to the film director in the hope that he could help him with an am-dram Nativity production at his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. Dubbed the Alternativity, the show took its inspiration from parallels between the traditional story and modern day life in the Palestinian Territories – the Walled Off hotel’s manager comes from a long line of carpenters, for example, and many residents must make long journeys across the borders every day for work. BBC2 made a documentary following Boyle in the run up to the show, but Banksy remained anonymous throughout, sending emails and storyboards to Boyle and painting a surprise backdrop of cherubs crow-barring the wall open.

Promotional image for 'The Alternativity' created by Banksy, 2017

Promotional image for 'The Alternativity' created by Banksy, 2017

Christ with Shopping Bags, 2004

Banksy’s earliest known piece on modern Christmas celebrations was released as an edition of 82 screen prints back in 2004. Centring on the commercialisation of the festive season, the controversial print (also known as Consumer Jesus) depicts Christ in the traditional position of the crucifix, laden down with shopping bags and wrapped gifts. The relatively small run of this edition makes it highly coveted – one of the screenprints was sold for £175,000 in a Christie’s online auction in September 2020.

Christ with Shopping Bags, screen print, edition of 82, 2004

Christ with Shopping Bags, screen print, edition of 82, 2004

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