Banksy’s Catholic Controversy

A year since Cardinal Sin was first revealed, I revisit the piece along with a few others

Banky is a hugely influential graffiti artist, political activist and film director from Bristol, England who has always leaves a trail of controversy, outrage and ever-growing support wherever he goes. Whether you like or dislike his work, nobody can deny the impact he has had all over the world. He does nothing to hide his dislike of governments and authority figures. In fact, many of his pieces ridicule those who he feels are oppressive powers.

His work is hugely popular with celebrities, who have been known to pay considerable amounts to get their hands on his art. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie spent over £1million at an auction in 2007. Christina Aguilera paid £25,000 for a copy of his piece Queen Victoria, which shows the famous monarch in a lesbian sex act. Banksy created this piece in response to Queen Victoria’s statement that women were incapable of being gay. The most expensive cope was sold for £277,250 in October 2008 at Sotheby’s in London.

For a list of the most expensive Banksy pieces click here.

Although many have tried, no-one has yet revealed his identity. In this article from July 2008, the Daily Mail revealed it had a picture of the man they believed to be the notorious Banksy. They now think a man called Robin Gunningham is the man behind the spray can. However, nothing has been confirmed and his identity is still a great source of mystery. Much of his street work is actually illegal, so in
revealing himself, he would find himself in a lot of trouble. So you can’t blame him can you? He issued this statement about his identity; “I have no interest in ever coming out. I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.”

My favourite piece of graffiti is called Naked Man and shows a suspicious man and a nearly-naked wife. What the suited-man can’t see is the totally naked man with a goatee hanging by one hand from the window ledge. His other hand? He is using it to cover his modesty. This funny mural is found on the wall of a sexual health clinic in Bristol. It’s both ironic and funny at the same time – in true Banksy style. The people of Bristol were able to vote on whether it stayed or went, and a overwhelming 97% of people voted for the piece to stay.

At this time last year, Banky revealed his sculpture Cardinal Sin which is now in its place Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. It is an ironic piece in reaction to the child abuse scandals at the hands of the Catholic Church. The gallery has placed Cardinal Sin among the gallery’s other religious artwork, obviously a deliberate move by Banksy and the gallery to gain maximum impact. The sculpture is a bust of a cardinal with the front of his face sawn off and replaced by tiles to imitate the pixellated effect that is most commonly used to conceal the identity of criminals on television. What does Banksy have to say about his infamous piece; “The statue? I guess you could call it a Christmas present. At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity — the lies, the corruption, the abuse.” It has been loaned to the gallery for an indefinite length of time.

Banksy is one of the most legendary artists on the planet. The huge costs people pay for his artwork shos that. His work has spread joy and hope to people in all walks of life. His art makes people think about the way they live their lives and teaches us to question how we are governed. He is the leader of a new generation of artists and has paved the way for so-called ‘unconventional’ art to be made mainstream.