Banksy Returns to New York With a Powerful Tribute to Jailed Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan

It's the first time the street artist has made new work in New York since 2013.

Banksy, Free Zehra Dogan (2018). Courtesy of the Houston Bowery Wall.

He’s back. Banksy has returned to New York for the first time since his much-hyped 2013 residency, and he’s taking over one of the city’s most famous sites for street art, the Houston Bowery Wall.

The anonymous British street artist’s newest work is a protest over the imprisonment of Zehra Doğan, a Turkish artist and journalist who is currently serving a nearly three-year jail sentence for one of her paintings.

The mural is on a blank white wall and features a series of tally marks for each day of Doğan’s incarceration, which began last March. The piece, done in collaboration with the street artist Borf, also includes a portrait of Doğan, shown trapped behind bars, one of which is actually a pencil.

She was arrested after posting a watercolor showing the rubble of the Kurdish town of Nusaybin, destroyed by the Turkish army in 2015, on her social media.

Banksy, <eM>Free Zehra Dogan</em> (2018). Courtesy of the Houston Bowery Wall.

Banksy, Free Zehra Dogan (2018). Courtesy of the Houston Bowery Wall.

Banksy shared an image of the mural on his Instagram with the hashtag #FREEzehradogan, writing “one year ago, Zehra Dogan was jailed for painting this watercolor of a photograph she saw in the newspaper. Protest against this injustice by re-gramming her painting, and tagging Turkey’s President Erdogan.”

Each night, above the 70-foot-long mural, Banksy will project an image of Doğan’s original piece, which shows the Turkish flag flying above the destroyed buildings. “I really feel for her. I’ve painted things much more worthy of a custodial sentence,” Banksy told the New York Times.

Banksy, <eM>Free Zehra Dogan</em> (2018). Courtesy of the Houston Bowery Wall.

Banksy, Free Zehra Dogan (2018), detail. Courtesy of the Houston Bowery Wall.

“We stand alongside every artist who chooses to use his or her creative abilities to highlight human rights issues,” said Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties and curator of the Houston Bowery wall, in a statement. The Bowery Wall, first painted by Keith Haring in 1984, has been home to a rotating series of commissioned work by prominent street artists since 2008.

Banksy’s contribution to the storied site is his second New York artwork in as many days. His handiwork was previously spotted on the face of a clock that graces the façade of a former bank and post office at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street. The work features a rat, one of the artist’s signature images, who appears to be running inside a large hamster wheel. As reported by Hyperallergic, the building is currently set to be demolished.

In 2013, Banksy spent the month of October treating New York as his own outdoor canvas, making his mark in four of the five boroughs. (Sorry, Staten Island.) This time around, there’s no telling how much time Banksy will spend in New York, or how much artwork he will make while he is here.

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