Banksy’s First Interactive Work Criticizes Police Violence Against Refugees

Migrants were forcefully evicted from Calais in early January.

The artwork is inspired by the musical Les Misérables. Photo: banksy.co.uk
The artwork is inspired by the musical Les Misérables. Photo: banksy.co.uk
Banksy's latest work appeared opposite the French embassy in Knightsbridge, London. Photo: banksy.co.uk

Banksy’s latest work appeared opposite the French embassy in Knightsbridge, London.
Photo: banksy.co.uk

A new work by the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy appeared opposite the French embassy in London on Saturday. The stencil criticizes the French police’s use of teargas in the Calais refugee camp known as the “Jungle.”

Inspired by the musical Les Misérables, the image depicts a tearful young girl being engulfed by CS gas fumes leaking from a can below. A QR code besides the work links to an online video of French police forcefully clearing a section of the camp on January 5. It is believed to be Banksy’s first interactive work.

According to the Guardian, the seven-minute video shows evidence of French riot police deploying teargas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades in an attempt to clear the camp after it was deemed unsafe.

The artwork is inspired by the musical Les Misérables. Photo: banksy.co.uk

The artwork is inspired by the musical Les Misérables.
Photo: banksy.co.uk

French police however have vehemently denied the use of teargas claiming it is “not in our interest.” Police spokesman Steve Barbet told the Guardian that officers would only use teargas when “it’s absolutely necessary to restore public order,” reiterating that “it is never used in the camp itself.”

An image of the mural appeared on Banksy’s website, confirming that the work was in fact painted by the mysterious artist.

Banksy previously declared his critical stance towards the European authorities’ handling of the migrant crisis with a series of artworks in and around the Calais refugee camp in December 2015.

The street artist has taken a critical stance towards the European authorities' handling of the migrant crisis. Photo: banksy.co.uk

The street artist has taken a critical stance towards the European authorities’ handling of the migrant crisis.
Photo: banksy.co.uk

The works, which included an image of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, were accompanied by a rare comment released via his spokeswomen.

“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes—and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs,” the artist said at the time.

Meanwhile, Londoners have reacted with excitement to Banksy’s latest creation. Construction worker Ged Glaude, who works on the site opposite the French embassy which is being turned into luxury apartments and shops, told the Mirror“It is not very often you come to work and see a Banksy.”

A QR code links to a video of French police clearing the calais refugee camp. It is believed to be Banksy's first interactive work. Photo: banksy.co.uk

A QR code links to a video of French police clearing the calais refugee camp. It is believed to be Banksy’s first interactive work.
Photo: banksy.co.uk.

Other art world figures who have commented on the migrant crisis include Ai Weiwei, who recently traveled to the Greek island of Lesbos to document and raise awareness of the plight of refugees, as well as Anish Kapoor, who  initiated a petition signed by numerous British cultural figures calling on the UK government to act.


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