Hijinks are part and parcel when it comes to the work of Banksy. Aside from his medium and methods inherently being tied to stealth and surprise, the renowned graffiti artist is also well known for creative, pointed stunts involving his work. So with news going out that legendary actor Christopher Walken destroyed a Banksy in a scene of the BBC comedy The Outlaws, it is hard not to presume that this entire event went exactly as desired for Banksy.
The Outlaws, which just premiered last month, is a dark comedy that follows seven strangers fulfilling their community service. Christopher Walken’s character Frank, the American of the bunch, is shown painting over a graffiti-covered wall. A board falls down revealing the iconic image of one of Banksy’s rats with vibrant “BANKSY” painted just above. Despite Frank attesting that the work is “awfully good”, he reluctantly covers up the piece, essentially destroying a piece that could easily have been valued for millions.
A spokesperson of the BBC confirmed the authenticity of the piece as one of Banksy’s in a statement to The Guardian. With the show filming in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol, it’s no surprise to see a work of his appear. But it seems that the perspective on the story has gotten a bit skewed, framing it as a guerrilla piece by Banksy that the show unwittingly or foolishly destroyed.
In a video through his Twitter, Stephen Merchant explained that he had made contact with Banksy in order to commission the piece for the scene. And while the elusive artist is well known for shirking commercial endeavours and avenues, the concept of creating a piece made entirely to be admired by a meandering community service worker, only to be told to destroy it, feels inherently Banksy.
While it may be technically true that Christopher Walken destroyed a Banksy on The Outlaws, without a doubt the event is its own little piece of art. Understated, quick, and contextually sensational, the scene plays out as a masterful gag. If anything, Banksy has shown time and again, even in the destruction of his pieces, to not take the art world so seriously.