Banksy — A False Prophet

‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’
(Matthew 7:15)

As far back as written religion can be traced, a charismatic individual proclaiming to be in contact with a divine being, speaking on that entity's behalf and — most importantly — serving mankind by spreading the divine truth, was called a prophet. 

For his followers, a prophet promises to unchain the people from agonies caused by the system in place, enlighten their minds and bring a better life for the future. Of course, this redemption can only be fulfilled for the ones who believe in the prophet.

Nowadays, we also believe in prophets — in our new, contemporary prophets.

Baddy Dolly Jane & Banksy

Banksy at Sotheby’s

On 5th October 2018, Banksy’s framed picture, Girl With Balloon, prophetically self-destructed, shortly after going under the hammer for a little more than £1 million. The Guardian called this a radical performance, as Banksy dared ‘to bite the hands that feed him’.

What did you think when you first heard of Banksy’s shredding ‘scoop’ at the Sotheby’s auction house in London? 

‘Hurrah! Banksy, once again, licked the corrupt international art world!’ 

Maybe this news even made you feel euphoric. 

Your state of euphoria probably increased a bit further when you saw Banksy’s videos where he ‘uncovered’ how he had planned the whole operation more than a decade before, knowing exactly what would happen that evening at the auction at Sotheby’s.

Banksy, the prophet who knows the divine course of events, and his backstage video were nothing less than an authentic proof of his prophethood.

But wait — did Banksy really lick the international art world?

Banksy at the State Gallery of Stuttgart

In early 2019, it became public that the private collector who bought Girl with Balloon during the Sotheby’s auction placed this artwork (now renamed to Love is in the Bin) at the State Gallery of Stuttgart, Germany. 

So, only a couple of months after the Sotheby’s shredding event, the machinery of the art world was doing its best to manifest Banksy’s place in history and support the Banksy hype. 

The museum organised lectures, social media and PR campaigns like it never has before — it seemed Banksy had been appointed the new crowd-puller of the museum.

But that’s not all.

Baddy Dolly Jane with Rembrandt & Banksy

As the apotheosis of these efforts, Love is in the Bin was hung in the hall of old masters, next to Rembrandt Harmensz. Van Rijn’s Self-Portrait with the Red Hat (circa 1660).

One piece placed behind bullet-proof security glass like an especially precious relic, the other — nearly unnoticed by the crowd — left to stand for itself. There is no doubt that this accentuated exposure of ‘valuableness’ was part of the marketing strategy.

Rembrandt van Rijn at Staatsgallery

What art critics call ‘contextualising’ contemporary art with old masters, is a key procedure to boost the economic and symbolic value of an artist. In other words: put something next to a cultural and historical treasure and that treasure’s aura will rub off on the something.

Yes, the museum was doing its best to support the Banksy hype, transforming the museum into a postmodern pilgrimage site in honour of the new State Gallery’s Mona Lisa.

And it seemed to work: a seemingly never-ending source of pilgrims storm the museum’s halls to catch a glimpse of the prophet’s contemporary icon — of course, fighting for the best position for selfies.

BADDY DOLLY JANE’s prayer 

During one of the many talks initiated by the museum, BADDY DOLLY JANE entered the holy hall, getting on her knees right in front of Love is in the Bin.

BAaddy Dolly Jane / Banksy at Staatsgalerie

She started her flaming Banksy prayer:

‘Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy…’ 

The other pilgrims became silent, stopping their fight over the best selfie position.

More and more, Baddy went into religious ecstasy, while her words transformed into a goat’s bleat:

‘…Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy…’

Baddy continued the prayer for seven minutes until her voice was nearly gone and she was only able to whisper: 

‘…Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy.’

While part of the audience didn’t know how to react and decided to keep calm and carry on, might the other have gotten a divine afflatus about the meaning of Lassy’s prayer?

Cui Bono?

Do you remember what the Gospel of Matthew said on false prophets?

‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’

And further:

‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.
Do men 
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

‘Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; 
but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.

‘A good tree can’t produce evil fruit,
neither 
can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.’

So, before we come to revere our prophet like a crowd of lambs, maybe we should better remember those ancient words.

Seeing another of Banksy’s ‘scoops’ against the art world, we should ask the ultimate question: 

Who really profited from this?

Did we experience spiritual enlightenment? Did our life become lighter and better after this? Or was it the life of the Sotheby’s marketing department which got better? The collector who bought Love is in the Bin? Or, last but not least, that of the prophet?

The answer can only be:

‘Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy, Banksy.’

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