While sparks of hope can ignite in the darkest of times, so too can people turn to selfish acts in desperation. And it is hard to wag too strong a finger at anyone looking to improve their station in Ukraine given the treacherous climate war has placed its citizens in. It is maybe not too surprising then that a (nearly) stolen Banksy would occur in Hostomel, and the main individual responsible is now facing long prison times.
Last year we were privy to an impromptu act of hopeful creation by the legendarily elusive artist Banksy. Without any fanfare leading up to it, murals in the artist’s iconic style began appearing around Ukraine on the edifices of buildings bombed out by Russian forces. Exemplifying the spirit of perseverance and resilience shown by the Ukrainian people surviving in ruins, these images quickly circulated and became tied to the resistance efforts of the war.
But in early December, Ukraine reported that a dozen people came to cut out the piece from the home it was created on in the suburb of Hostomel of Kyiv, Ukraine. Most were apprehended at the scene after having removed the would-be stolen Banksy from the wall. Authorities have since honed in on the individual who lead the action and they are now facing the possibility of twelve years in prison. But in their own defence they state that they had taken down the image with the intent of auctioning it for proceeds towards the Ukrainian army.
The piece in question depicts a woman in curlers and a bathrobe equipped with a fire extinguisher, a gas mask covering her face. It’s par for the course of Banksy, radiating a distinctly ambivalent energy of domestic, daily life with the great weight of socio-political turmoil. Against the lurid yellow of the building, the stark white figure evokes an almost ghastly energy, trepidatious but prepared.
While the stolen Banksy clearly did not end up far from its home, the act of trying to take away a piece that gave so much hope does give pause, even if enacted by those in the community. But one must question whether over a decade of imprisonment is a fitting punishment for an individual if they truly sought to help others in this time.