Top 10 Greatest Banksy Pieces

Script written by Telly Vlachakis.

When it comes to Banksy’s best artwork, this guerrilla street artist makes powerful social commentary. Whether it’s “Cardinal Sin,” which commented on the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, “One Nation Under CCTV,” which was a statement on privacy and the idea of big brother, or his Guantánamo Bay stunt at Disneyland around the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Banksy’s most famous artwork is protest art. WatchMojo counts down ten of the best Banksy pieces of art.

Special thanks to our user liam_schell, ninou78, Tonypb, Alex Evans and tannoy_14@hotmail.co for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/%20Top%2010%20Banksy%20Pieces

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Script written by Telly Vlachakis.

Top 10 Most Controversial Banksy Works of Art


How impressive is it that he’s one of the most successful artists of our time, but his identity is unknown? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Banksy pieces.

For this list, we’re looking at the most recognizable and influential creations by the notoriously secretive street artist that’s shocked and inspired a generation of art lovers.

#10: “Spy Booth”
2014

Featuring some old-school spies listening in on a phone both, this mural appeared on a residential building in Cheltenham, England in 2014. “Spy Booth” is seen by many as a commentary on government surveillance and Edward Snowden’s revelations – especially since it’s located near the local Government Communications Headquarters. Nearby homeowners welcomed the installation, which drew many visitors to the area, and fought to ensure it would not be removed. Sadly, they lost that battle: even though the building earned protected status, the piece was vandalized and ultimately removed in 2016. However, rumor has it we may not have seen the last of this Banksy…

#9: “Mobile Waterfall”
2013

In October 2013, Banksy spent his one-month residency in New York City getting up to his usual mischief. The “Better Out Than In” campaign was full of politically charged graffiti, shocking installations and mobile exhibits, including a statue of Ronald McDonald having his shoes shined by a live person and a man selling Banksy art in Central Park for $60. Perhaps his most impressive work was a grimy delivery truck that housed a fully functional waterfall scene, featuring butterflies, nature sounds, and a rainbow. As opposed to the slaughterhouse truck filled with stuffed animals that he displayed in the meat-packing district, this is one of his least aggressive messages; a simple reminder of serenity in the world’s busiest city.

#8: “Banksy vs Bristol Museum” Show
2009

Banksy’s works often pop up on the street unannounced, to the surprise of onlookers. Well, in 2009, he surprised onlookers by unexpectedly featuring his artwork in a museum. Banksy had already snuck his work into the Tate in 2003, and the British Museum in 2005. But, while these installations were unsanctioned, his exhibit in June 2009 was approved by the Bristol City Museum – even if it was a surprise to the public. His biggest exhibition ever, this successful show featured over 100 works and installations, many of which were brand new pieces, like a Madonna and Child with an iPod and other “defaced” classics, as well as a melting ice cream truck and various animatronics.

#7: “Cardinal Sin”
2011

No stranger to controversy, Banksy leaves no institute unscathed – including the Catholic Church. A replica of an 18th Century-style bust of a priest, “Cardinal Sin” was unveiled at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery in December 2011 – when a flurry of child abuse allegations were being levied at the Church. The priest’s face, however, has been covered with tiles, giving it a pixelated effect similar to how the media might protect the identities of suspected criminals. In his associated statement, Banksy said that during the holidays “it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity - the lies, the corruption, the abuse.” While this may not have been his most recognizable work, it’s one of his most powerful.

#6: Guantánamo Bay Stunt at Disneyland
2006

Right around the time of his LA exhibition “Barely Legal” in September 2006, Banksy paid a visit to Disneyland. On the trip, he dressed an inflatable doll as a Gitmo detainee, snuck it into the park, inflated it and set it up inside the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride – almost exactly five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Presumably this date was intentional, to bring about maximum impact. And, whether it was the timing or the fact that he chose the happiest place on Earth as his setting, this definitely generated controversy. Unlike his Guantanamo Bay mural in London, the hooded and handcuffed installation at Disney was removed immediately – but not before a few pictures were taken.

#5: “Slave Labour”
2012

2012 was a big year for London, what with the Summer Olympics taking place there and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It’s no surprise that Banksy had a lot to say about both of these events – and he did not hold back. Appearing on the side of a shop in the Wood Green district of London in May of 2012, this mural was a clear commentary on Great Britain commercialization of such major events. The image, showing the manufacturing of the Union Jack at a sweatshop, was mysteriously removed and turned up for sale at auction in the U.S. Ultimately, it was returned to the UK and sold for over a million dollars amid much controversy.

#4: “One Nation Under CCTV”
2008

Back in April 2008, Banksy stenciled one of his largest murals on a wall in London, and it’s become one of his most recognizable works. This is a clear commentary on big brother and the UK’s vast use of CCTV cameras in public spaces, and while many people have argued against their existence for privacy reasons, this might be the most in-your-face protest – and the best way Banksy knows to fight back. In addition to being controversial, this is also one of Banksy’s ballsiest pieces, as its sheer size means he required time and scaffolding to create it, and it’s set right next to actual CCTV cameras. Sadly, the Westminster City Council ordered its removal that same year.

#3: “Dismaland”
2015

It’s always a surprise when a Banksy appears on the street overnight, but it’s an even bigger achievement to plan an entire amusement park right under the noses of Somerset residents. In August 2015, he turned his anti-consumerist vision into Dismaland, a month-long exhibition where 4,000 visitors per day could experience this disturbing anti-Disneyland for £3. Conceived by Banksy but featuring work by many other artists, the pieces at the park – like crashed Cinderella, glitchy Ariel and the remote-controlled refugee boat game – caused obvious controversy and shock, but overall “Dismaland” was a huge success: the “bemusement” park pushed all the right buttons, and for 36 days was the (un)happiest place on earth.

#2: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
2010

Ever since this Oscar-nominated film was released, the debate has raged: is it a documentary, or just another Banksy stunt? The film follows French immigrant Thierry Guetta – now known as Mr. Brainwash – whose habit of filming his everyday life and building obsession with street art turn into a documentary. Banksy is both the film’s director and a character within it: Guetta meets him in LA and the two become each other’s guides through the city and the art world. Supposedly an unfiltered behind-the-scenes look at the anonymous artist’s guerilla work, the movie feels more like a mockumentary art piece compiled by Banksy than a legitimate documentary. Banksy has supposedly confirmed its authenticity, but perhaps he’s fooled us all once again.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Paris Hilton Album Remix
2006

- “Murdered Phone Box”
2006

- “Sweeping It Under the Carpet”
2006

#1: Images on the West Bank Barrier
2005

Some of Banksy’s riskiest, most provocative work has involved the West Bank wall separating the Israeli and Palestinian territories – a barrier the artist himself has called “a disgrace.” First, in August 2005, he unveiled nine original murals on the wall, showing what things might be like on the other side, among other things. Gaining worldwide attention, pieces like the now iconic “Flower Thrower” and “Balloon Girl” divided critics, but also became symbols of hope and freedom. Almost 12 years later, Banksy opened “The Walled Off Hotel” near the barrier as a form of living protest art. It’s these West Bank creations that elevated Banksy from guerrilla street artist to iconic artistic figure of the 21st century.
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