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British street artist Banksy is well-known for his controversial and often politically-themed artwork. However, his latest creation can only be described as heartwarming. The mostly black-and-white stenciled sketch, dubbed "Game Changer," features a young boy playing with a British National Health Services (NHS) nurse superhero toy. In the background, Batman and Spiderman action figures lie in a waste bin, indicating that the boy's new superheroes are the "game changers" of today — the millions of COVID-19 medical workers worldwide who are risking their lives daily to keep the rest of us safe.
"I've got a little toddler at home and seeing the little kid playing with the action figures there and with the Batman, Spiderman, and then the nurse flying over - it was just amazing," said Matsikachando Moyo, a nurse at Southampton General Hospital. "It's a beautiful portrait of the NHS staff as heroes, it's lovely, it's amazing."
Unveiled by Southampton General Hospital officials on May 7, 2020, the approximately 10-square- foot (one-square-meter) artwork came with a note from the artist. It read, "Thanks for all you're doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it's only black and white."
It is unclear why Banksy picked the Southern England hospital or how he delivered the framed masterpiece without getting detected. However, the hospital is thrilled by the unexpected tribute. Paula Head, chief executive of Southampton General's NHS Foundation Trust, said it was "a huge honor" that Banksy had "chosen us to recognize the outstanding contribution."
The officials, who are currently displaying the artwork in the entryway close to the hospital's emergency department, plan to put it up for auction in the fall and donate the proceeds to benefit all NHS workers.
Despite being a household name, especially in England, Banksy's identity is known only to his family and close circle of friends. The elusive artist rose to fame in 1993, when his graffiti art began appearing on trains and walls in Bristol, England. By 2001, the artist's classic blocky spray-painted signature became a familiar sight all across the United Kingdom and then, soon after, worldwide — from Vienna to Paris to San Francisco.
Though Banksy has since moved on to more traditional art forms, such as painting on canvas and conceptual sculpture, the artist refrains from selling his masterpieces at high prices unless the proceeds are for a charitable cause. In October 2018, he demonstrated his contempt for exorbitant art prices by remotely activating the shredder built into the back of his world-famous "Girl with Balloon, painting, shortly after it had sold for a record $1.4 million at a Sotheby's auction.
However, the artist's attempt to destroy the painting, which he renamed "Love is in the Bin," did not dissuade the bidder from purchasing it. According to the auction house, while the anonymous female European collector was initially shocked at seeing her newly-acquired painting being shredded, she later decided that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "own a piece of art history."
Resources: Theguardian.com, Wikipedia.org, NPR.org