In true Banksy fashion, the widely celebrated street-artist has surprised both locals and art lovers globally with his new topical piece found on a quiet Nottingham street. Initially, the design attracted solely residents whom it reminded of Banksy’s earlier works, which prompted sporadic speculation that it could in fact be a genuine contribution. Despite the whispers, very few were prepared for the reality that it was indeed a genuine piece of work. Amid the artist’s recent confirmation of ownership via an Instagram post, the effects of his art on the area have been simply extraordinary.
Curiously, before the authenticity of artwork had been confirmed by Banksy, the artwork was vandalised. Fortunately, prior to this attempted destruction, Nottingham City council caught wind of the fact the art may have belonged to Banksy which prompted them to erect a transparent protective screen to shield the artwork.
Regardless of intent, the vandalism evoked a sense of unification within the community. Stories swelled of two women who volunteered their time and resources to clean the screen and restore the display back to its original condition. Remnants of the vandalism can still be seen by the dark thick paint left behind on the surrounding brick. Alongside this, the orange phrase ‘Mass Produced’ glaringly contrasts against Banksy’s monochrome mural. Perhaps the vandal’s words may reflect their distaste for Banksy’s distinctive art style, or instead was intended to serve as an ominous message only understood by a select few. Nonetheless, the vandalism brought on a sudden shared sentiment of over-protectiveness – proving that Banksy’s work has quickly become a gift of hope to its observers.
Although this year has been choked with worry and trepidation, Banksy’s art effectively brought us together in a world where it is currently safer to be apart. This is perhaps most evident in the commotion the art evoked. Many crowds of all ages flocked to the area to photograph and admire the piece despite Nottingham’s harsher lockdown restriction rules from the 12th October 2020.
Many excitedly questioned the artwork’s meaning and the decision behind choosing a prime student residential area. Perhaps Banksy simply came across the abandoned bike and was struck by his opportunistic imagination. Alternatively, the incorporation of the bike may have been by the artist’s own design. Nevertheless, the unity reassures Nottingham that all will be well in the world eventually.
As a student myself, I can see first-hand that this work has reignited an elated joy among Nottingham’s community. Echoes of ‘Have you heard about Banksy’s new piece? I can’t believe he’s done one in Nottingham!‘, have reverberated throughout the community.
Prioritising optimism over apprehension in light of rising Covid-19 cases, this art serves as a welcome distraction from the reality of the pandemic. The power of this art acts as a thoughtful personal message directly from the anonymous artist to the public.
The sweet innocence of the girl reflects hope for society today whilst the down-trodden bike chained to the pole symbolises this restrictive year. The bicycle was chained to the pole for protection, just as we each took refuge in our homes against the merciless virus. I like to believe that Banksy chose to enlighten Nottingham with his recognisable art to provide fortitude amid the stricter lockdown measures imposed. Whether intentional or not, the deteriorating bike reflects the escalating dismay and the gradual growing of hopelessness as the winter season closes in. Remarkably, Banksy’s work challenges this attitude and inspires a renewed faith that we shall make it through restrictions and winter. By illustrating a little girl, full of life, blissfully playing with the disjointed tire, Banksy’s art motivates its viewers to muster the same optimism. It spreads the message that one day, we too shall return to the same calmness and delight the girl portrays.
Street art often acts as a mirror to the current situation of society. Whether it be political, personal, or like this art, a reflection of optimism within destruction. The nameless child re-purposing the tire as a hula-hoop demonstrates how we too can and should make the most of what we have this year. As Banksy wordlessly said, we must remain resolute in our hope.
Words And Photos By Naomi Akintola