Bansky is at it again. The secretive English street artist, known for his provocative takes on everything from the high society art world to Paris Hilton’s debut album, has commented on the coronavirus pandemic in his latest piece — all while sneaking in a Chumbawamba reference, because of course he did.
Banksy announced his new piece via a video on his Instagram page. Entitled “if you don’t mask – you don’t get”, the artwork was “installed” on a London Underground train, and consists of his own tag sprayed in that familiar shade of N95 mask blue, surrounded by stenciled rats, a common motif in his work. One of the rats uses a face mask as a parachute while another sneezes, shooting blue liquid everywhere — it represents the novel coronavirus’ dynamic aerosol efficiency, duh!
The enigmatic artist also pokes fun at England’s mandatory lockdown with lyrics from Chumbawamba’s smash hit “Tubthumping”. On a station wall, he spray-painted the words “I get lockdown,” and as the train doors close, it reveals the words “But I get up again.” Yes, we know you’re hearing the song in your head now. At press time, the UK is still one of the top 10 most affected countries in the world, but it is currently easing its lockdown restrictions.
While the video introduces us to the new artwork, it actually functions less as a public viewing of the piece; instead, Banksy opts to show us the process behind the art. A man, presumably the anonymous artist himself, is dressed in an exterminator costume as he boards a tube car. He gets to work with spray paint and stencil as passengers look on, confused. Once the installation is complete, the man quickly exits the station. Watch the full clip below.
Luckily, most people unwittingly caught in the video are wearing masks, somewhat undercutting the need for the piece. If quarantine restrictions overseas weren’t in place, the work might be more poignant here in the US — which is currently experiencing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, and where wearing masks have become heavily politicized. Alas.
Update: Cleaners have already removed Banky’s latest piece, as they were “unaware” it was created by the artist.
In related news, Banksy’s “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum”, originally created in 2014 in his hometown of Bristol, was recently tweaked to include a face mask. It’s unclear whether the artist did it himself.