Celebrate the work of one of the most elusive and controversial street artists of our time.
When it comes to Covid-19 safe activities, street art tours should be number one on your list. In fact, London makes a beautiful hotspot for the activity, with miles of free street art scattered around the city. Be it an official or paid street tour or wandering off solo, there is much to see. Banksy, the illustrious and anonymous street artist, brought the phenomenon of street art to the mainstream with his one-of-a-kind metaphorical-laden pieces popping up across London’s historic streets. So if you’re popping across the pond and hoping to view one of his iconic works in real life, look no further. We’ve compiled ten of his most popular works that can be found along these magical city’s streets.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Tooley Street
Rats are something of a recurring motif in the work of Banksy, and not just necessarily in inanimate form, either. You will need to see The Art Of Banksy to truly understand that, but more on that later. The Rat, located on Tooley Street, may be small in comparison to other works by Banksy, but this is arguably where the Banksy phenomenon began.
"My Tap’s Been Phoned"
WHERE: Chrisp Street
The News International phone-hacking scandal may officially have been a decade ago, but its impact is still reverberating around the journalistic world to this very day. Just look at the litigation brought by a particular member of the Royal family. This Banksy work dates back to when the scandal was in the news all the time, thanks to the reporting of The Guardian, and appears to be a witty reference. While less complex than some more well-known work by Banksy, and having been covered from time to time, this work also ostensibly utilizes a tap, which is how the piece got its informal name.
"Very Little Helps"
WHERE: Essex Road
A lot of Banksy’s work relies on the concept of satire, and this piece is no exception. In this case, it’s a tweaked British turn-of-phrase in reference to a particular supermarket brand. Stenciled on the side of a pharmacy back in 2008, the artist himself later released a set of limited edition and now collectible prints of this work.
"Cash Machine Girl"
WHERE: Close to Exmouth Market
If you use or are even just vaguely aware of social media, you may be aware of a lot of current, cultural conversations surrounding the idea of being anti-capitalist. The “Cash Machine Girl” Banksy piece dates back to around 2007 and depicts a small girl, probably aged 11 or under, being grabbed by a robot-like arm from the inside workings of the cash machine. While this is over a decade old, it provides relevant and timeless commentary on the state of the world, as well as the “cost of living crisis” in the UK.
WHERE: Beside the Regents Canal Tunnel, underneath the HQ of the London Transport Police
A list of Banksy’s work everyone should see would never be complete without a mural, and everyone should at least visit what is known as “Wallpaper Hanging.” Utilizing Banksy’s stencil style we have all become accustomed to, a city worker is depicted covering the work of another artist who had been in the area decades prior.
WHERE: Pollard Street in Benthal Green
Everyone loves flowers, don’t they? Created in 2007, “Yellow Flower” has gone through a few incarnations, especially where yellow lines ran across the pavement. In the UK this is connected to where to—or where not to—park your car. A painter sits to the left of the giant flower, taking a break from painting the flower. While the yellow flower has sustained some damages over the years—such as with the intervention of other artists in the area—the flower still largely stands tall.
"Designated Graffiti Area"
WHERE: Rivington Street
Art in the UK is technically illegal unless, you know, you do it on your own property or if you have official permission. This particular piece of work—one which has been preserved—shows a man dressed as some kind of security guard with a poodle-like dog, patrolling the area next to a sign proclaiming this as an officially “designated graffiti area.” A lot of Banksy’s work has a childlike, irreverent humor to it and this cheeky piece is no exception.
WHERE: Marble Arch
In recent years, we have seen a lot of grassroots action when it comes to combatting climate change, such as groups like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion. While not officially confirmed by the man himself, this mural appeared back in 2019. Once again, it depicts a small girl, around eleven or under, and provides a poignant commentary on climate change.
"If Graffiti Changed Anything"
WHERE: Clipstone Street
Again with the rats! Appearing in 2011, this rat has a red paw and is nearer to the ground; it’s almost as if the rat has created the work himself. “If Graffiti Changed Anything, It Would Be Illegal” reads the work—a throwaway homage to Emma Goldman’s oft-debated quote “If voting changed anything, it would be illegal.”
The Art Of Banksy Exhibition
WHERE: 50 Earlham Street
Unlike the rest of this list, this exhibit doesn’t allow you to see the works of Banksy for free, but it’s still worth visiting if you haven’t had enough of a street art fix. The Art Of Banksy is a strictly unauthorized exhibition located on Earlham Street. Almost laid out like a biographical retrospective to take you from Banksy’s career beginnings right up until the present, there is a huge range of street art to look at as well as videos with interviews from close friends and collaborators. We may be living through a pandemic, but this exhibition has some wickedly funny commentary on the state of the world today.