Banksy’s Christmas Present to Liverpool
Just a quick one today – the Daily Norm has been blighted by a severe strain of a malignant, violent and all-encompassing virus otherwise known as the common cold, and consequently even the movement of my hands on this keyboard is enough to provoke a series of earth-shattering sneezes which does not make for pleasant results on the Daily Norm’s nice glass desk. Just enough time to reflect upon the new offering by evasive British artist, Banksy, which has been presented to the Walker Gallery in Liverpool as a Christmas present (indefinite loan) to the nation. Banksy, who is of course renowned for his pop-up stencil-effect street art/murals has waded into one of 2011’s hot topics: the Catholic church sex scandal. Called “Cardinal sin”, he offers up a replica of an 18th Century stone bust of a Cardinal, its face sawn off and replaced with a mosaic of small tiles (usually found in a swimming pool, bathroom or kitchen splashback – although not, I suspect, to such effect). The tiles are placed in such a way as replicate the pixellation effect which is commonly used on television news or in the print media to protect the identity of sex crime victims.
Presenting the piece to Liverpool’s Walker Gallery, the ever elusive Banksy, his own identity forever shrouded in mystery, issued a statement which said: “At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity – the lies, the corruption, the abuse”. He also stipulated that the work should be placed alongside the Gallery’s period collection which includes works by the likes of Van Dyke, Poussin and the Pre-Raphaelites.
Banksy is renowned for making measured often controversial and political statements with his work. With Cardinal Sin, he reflects on a previously untouched controversy, doing so in an effective, accessible manner. The point he makes is not particularly clever, nor deep or insightful. It does not promote active contemplation in its audience. But nonetheless, his work is an intelligent pun casting further focus (as if any more were needed) on the devastating plight of the many thousands of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic church. The work should not be seen as an indiscriminate attack on the Catholic church (despite the impression give by Banksy’s statement) but rather an interesting piece of contemporary art which, unlike so much work filling art galleries these days, has a valid point to make which will resonate with all of society.
Best of all, the work will no doubt turn the focus of Banksy’s huge global following towards Liverpool’s Walker Gallery. I visited the gallery for the first time in September and was beyond impressed with the array of work on show. It’s well worth a visit, especially in 2012 when the John Moores painting prize will be back in the gallery – a worthy rival to the less accessible Turner Prize. And for those culture vultures amongst you, the equally excellent Tate Liverpool is just down the road.