Banksy in Venice: A Conflict of Artistic Vision and Cultural Policy

Banksy in Venice

Even though no one knows who Banksy is or what he looks like, he has been placed on the artistic pedestal next to some of the most influential contemporary artists in the world. However, there is one of the main differences between him and artists who showcase their works at galleries. Banksy, who chooses the streets as his preferred medium, is known to care very little about the preservation of his art. What happens to his murals after they are discovered does not appear to concern him. After all, the street artist often documents the demolition of his work. Banksy’s mural in Venice would have faced the same fate if not for the local administration intervening.

Banksy in Venice: A Conflict of Artistic Vision and Cultural Policy

There are currently only two works by Banksy in Italy. The first one, Madonna with a Pistol, appeared in Naples in 2004. The second one, The Migrant Child, is more recent and can still be found in Venice. The current state of the mural, which has deteriorated from water and wind, has been noted by the local government. Italy’s undersecretary for culture, Vittorio Sgarbi, has shared his intentions of restoring and preserving the stencil piece.

Many people, including reputable Italian art critics, feel like the destruction of Banksy’s work is part of his artistic intent. However, when dealing with artwork worth millions of dollars on the art market and attracting thousands of tourists each year, things get a little bit more complicated.

Italian street artists and some art critics pointed out that preventing Banksy’s work from deteriorating would defeat its purpose. The piece was strategically placed on a wall of a building very close to water not only to draw attention to refugee rights but also to comment on the effects of climate change. Sgarbi said that since Banksy’s artwork is technically illegal, he will not wait for the artist’s permission to restore it.

As it often is with Banksy’s work, the opinions on its value and purpose differ. Very few street artists can say their work is protected by the government, so the treatment of the Banksy murals often becomes a point of criticism. Nevertheless, the restoration of one of the only two remaining artist’s pieces in Italy seems like an important event in the country’s cultural life.

Photo credit: Banksy’s Instagram page/@banksy