Banksy, the elusive graffiti artist known for the vague gestures his creations make towards current events, is making headlines again for his latest work: a painting entitled “Game Changer” that features a young boy clad in overalls playing with a doll wearing a nurse’s outfit. In a basket next to the boy, Spiderman and Batman dolls lie languidly; they’ve either been discarded or temporarily ignored. According to the BBC, the painting was hung in the foyer of the Southampton General Hospital in the United Kingdom, and Banksy himself left a message behind for the hospital workers he apparently made the painting to honor. “Thanks for all you’re doing,” Banksy reportedly wrote. “I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white.”
“Our hospital family has been directly impacted with the tragic loss of much loved and respected members of staff and friends,” Paula Head, the CEO of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, told the BBC. “The fact that Banksy has chosen us to recognize the outstanding contribution everyone in and with the NHS is making, in unprecedented times, is a huge honor.” Reportedly, the painting will remain in the hospital foyer until the fall, when it will then be auctioned off in order to raise money for the NHS.
Since hospital workers of all designations are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that Banksy would want to pay homage to the collective sacrifice all doctors and nurses are making. However, it’s certainly interesting that the artist would choose to represent his respect for medical professionals by painting a nurse as a toy for children; a flat and static figure who can be played with or discarded at random. Perhaps this reads a bit too much into the message, but it always feels like Banksy can never just be reverential. Even his most earnest creations are soured by a tinge of something that feels significantly off.