Did Banksy Infiltrate the Venice Biennale? The Mystery Street Artist May Be Behind a New Refugee-Crisis Mural in the City

Banksy hasn't yet claimed the piece, but the street artist often addresses the migrant crisis in his work.

A possible new Banksy has been sighted in Venice. Photo by Lapo Simeoni.

Has the notorious British street artist Banksy touched down in Venice? A politically charged piece that bears all the hallmarks of his work has appeared on the canals of the Italian lagoon city, leading to speculation that the anonymous graffiti artist has paid a visit on the occasion of the Venice Biennale, which opened to the public this past weekend.

The piece shows a young child wearing a life jacket and holding a pink flare up in the air, a migrant calling for rescuers. It was spotted on the island of Dorsoduro by the eagle-eyed artist and collector Lapo Simeoni, who shared his find on Instagram and with the Italian art publication Artribune, noting it was painted some time between Thursday and Friday last week.

Banksy has yet to claim the stenciled painting and it has not yet appeared on his Instagram account or website. But the artist has often addressed the plight of migrants and refugees in his work: in 2015, he painted a Steve Jobs portrait at the refugee camp in Calais, France, to call attention to the fact that, as he said in a statement at the time, Apple “only exists because [the US] allowed in a young man from Homs.” Banksy also frequently uses young children as his subjects, as in his perhaps most famous work, Balloon Girl.

The new piece drew comparisons in the Art Newspaper to Barca Nostra, an installation in the biennale’s main exhibition, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” of the recovered wreck of a ship that sank off the coast in Libya, killing hundreds of migrants. The piece, by Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel, has drawn criticism for the lack of information presented alongside the hull, and for potentially turning extreme human suffering into a tourist spectacle or a tool to make a comment about the art world.

In contrast, the possible Banksy presents the human face of the migrant crisis, with a child in desperate need of help. While Büchel has presented an eerie monument to those who have already died, the stenciled artwork reminds the viewer of those who still need our aid.

As of press time, Banksy’s representatives had not responded to our request for comment. Today, a potential work by the artist was also spotted in Birmingham, UK, according to Birmingham Live.

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