Sometime within the past week, the famous graffiti artist known as Banksy has created another one of his social critiques. If you wish to look at it yourself, it’s upon the side of a building in London that happens to be standing across the street from the French embassy.
This new work shows Cosette, the character synonymous with the book and musical Les Misérables. The original artwork shows Cosette with the French tricolor waving behind her. The image of the girl was originally from an illustration in Les Misérables, but the flag was added to promote the musical in the West End of London. However, Banksy has taken the girl’s surroundings and made a new meaning out of it. Now, Cosette is surrounded by teargas, as evidenced by the open can spraying it at her feet. Cosette’s eyes are red and there are tears running down her face. Banksy most likely did this because of the recent surge in police brutality in Europe as a response to the wave of Middle Eastern refugees and asylum-seekers. Specifically, it is a reference to the French police’s use of teargas while clearing a refugee camp in Calais. This work of graffiti comes about a month and a half after Banksy visited Calais, near the aforementioned refugee camp, and he left us with a few more images. In one, Steve Jobs carries a rucksack or a garbage bag filled with belongings like a refugee, and in another, the silhouette of the Raft of Medusa, the famous painting by Théodore Géricault, with the passengers trying to wave down a cruise ship as if they had just escaped from Syria and were drifting endlessly somewhere in the Mediterranean.
What’s also very interesting about the new work is that to the left of Cosette, there is a QR code, where people can be linked online to a video of the French police at Calais, making it one of Banksy’s first interactive works.
Unfortunately, the work of graffiti has been covered up. It’s not because people aren’t allowed to see it. It’s because a group of men were caught trying to steal the wooden panel on which the work was painted. Police are now putting protective measures in place to try to preserve the work, which is something you don’t usually hear about graffiti and other kinds of ‘vandalism’.