You Can See a Controversial Banksy Mural on Display in New Orleans Right Now

May 31, 2019

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A once-defunct Banksy mural has made its way back into the public eye in New Orleans this month, for this first time in over a decade.

The artwork, created by the famously elusive British street artist, is a 1,600-pound graffiti mural said is, “as important to the New Orleans zeitgeist as NOMA’s portrait of Marie Antoinette ever was.”

So, you can imagine, there’s quite a story behind it.

Just as Hurricane Gustav threatened the city in August 2008, New Orleans was hit with a barrage of Banksy stencil paintings produced by him and a few alleged assistants. In typical Banksy fashion, how the paintings came to be created is a bit unclear. There are a handful of stories and rumors, but despite it all, the murals are considered authentic Banksys. Many of the paintings (around 15) included commentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath three years prior.

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The painting that appeared on Elysian Fields Avenue was particularly controversial, featuring two men dressed in military garb looting a TV from a window into a shopping cart. Although Banksy’s intentions are unknown, it was viewed by some as a critique of the National Guard.

Grafitti by the illusive artist Banksy adorns a building August 29, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Grafitti by the illusive artist Banksy adorns a building August 29, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

The owner of the building, Sean Cummings, said that before the mural popped up, he received a call from an acquaintance claiming to represent Banksy. He was skeptical, but he agreed to let the structure be used for art.

“I said, ‘Wow, it’s a signature Banksy irreverently poking the eye of society,’” he recalled to about seeing the mural. “But, oh boy, the National Guard is going to hate this.”

Shortly after the murals were painted, however, they were vandalized by antigraffiti activists. Cummings did his best to protect the mural on his building, but the vandals were relentless. At one point, it was buried underneath nine different layers of paint, Teflon, plywood and even Obama campaign posters.

Although the original building on Elysian Fields Avenue has been demolished, Cummings removed and transported the mural to the New Orleans Conservation Guild where he pumped $50,000 into its restoration.

Flash forward to today, and it has found a new (and safe) home in the New Orleans’ Central Business District in the International House Hotel lobby — where anyone can view it but, this time, no one can touch it.

Featured image by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

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