I suspect many of you would have heard the news this week about the new Banksy that appeared on a wall in Bristol. As always it has caused a great deal of interest and controversy, mainly about the vexed question of ownership – just who owns a piece of graffiti done in a public place? Is it the artist? The owner of the wall it is done on? Someone else or even no-one? And who has the right to say what happens with it next, especially when that piece of graffiti could generate significant sums of money if auctioned in some way. In the past pieces have been painted over, damaged, and ironically been victims of graffiti themselves!
In this case owner of a nearby boys club took matters into his own hands and unscrewed it (for once it was mounted rather than painted directly onto the wall, and took it into the club for safety. It appears as if safety wasn’t the only motive, the club is in need of funding and this painting was seen as being Banksy’s gift to the club. They would auction it and use the proceeds. Unsurprisingly not all were of the opinion that they could just take it like that! It has now been taken from there via the police to the city museum for display, but the mayor has said he’d love Banksy to provide a limited edition print of it for the Boys Club to sell so that everyone could be happy.
Although the questions raised by the dispute are interesting, I found the questions raised by the artwork itself most interesting. It portrays a couple in an embrace, but each holding a mobile phone behind the back of the other which they are reading. The hug suggests relationship, but the phones suggest their attention is not really on the other at all; a modern portrayal of the nature of broken relationships. The painting is in many ways a commentary on the row that has broken out over it!
This weekend we celebrate the one who came to bring an end to broken relationships. As it says in Colossians 1:19-20, ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’
Let’s celebrate this wonderful guerrilla act which, like Banksy’s artwork, was done freely for all, and play our part in spreading the message of reconciliation through Christ to each other and to our Heavenly Father. Let us not try and lock it way to keep it safe, or see it as for our profit alone.
Church newsletter 20.04.14