Anonymous British street artist Banksy is no stranger to the headlines. Most often they relate to another sales record or a new work that suddenly appeared on the street. However, recently his name has been mentioned in connection with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.
Refugees have been a recurring theme in Banksy's works for many years, appearing in various cities and referencing different current events. One of the most recent works appeared at the Venice Biennale 2019, where, on the city's canals, he painted a migrant child shooting a pink light to attract rescuers. In July 2020, Banksy's triptych “Mediterranean Sea View” (2017), referring to the European migrant crisis, was auctioned off at Sotheby's for £ 2,2 million, which was donated to a Bethlehem hospital. .
However, this time Banksy went further and funded a refugee rescue boat for operations in the Mediterranean. The ship called "Louise Michel" is named after a French feminist anarchist and was funded by Banksy's recent profits from the sale of her works on the migrant crisis. The 30-meter-long motorboat was spray painted a bright pink color using a fire extinguisher and the artist inscribed the word “rescue” on its hull. It also features a depiction of a girl wearing a life jacket, holding a heart-shaped safety buoy, referencing the artist's famous work, “Girl with a Ball”.
To go beyond art and help in one way or another, Banksy got in touch with Sea Watch, a German NGO that patrols the Mediterranean to save migrants, especially Pia Klemp, one captains of the Sea Watch. She recently made headlines after an online petition protested her potential 20-year prison sentence for saving more than 1000 migrants from the Mediterranean. Banksy offered to help provide a new boat for Klemp to continue his mission at sea. At first, after receiving an email from Banksy, Klemp thought it was a joke. “I read your story in the papers. You look like a badass, ”he wrote in an email. “I am an artist from the UK and have done work on the migrant crisis. Obviously, I can't keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something like that? "
And Pia Klemp did - she assembled a team of ten anti-fascist and anti-racist activists and quietly set sail on August 18, 2020. In the first mission, they helped save 89 people. The mission was not made public until after their departure from the territory to avoid possible problems on the part of the authorities. For what was perhaps the second mission, not everything went as well as before. Rescuing migrants from Libya, the "Louise Michel" embarked more than 200 people who requested "immediate assistance". These refugees were transferred to SeaWatch4. The crew of the boat addressed the authorities via Twitter: “#LouiseMichel is unable to maneuver, she is no longer within range of her maneuver, because of her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed to her. front, but above all because Europe is ignoring our emergency, we need quick help. The responsible authorities remain indifferent. ”For lack of response from the coast guard, the boat continued to float at sea with those rescued and one person died. They finally found a home port and we drop anchor in Palermo, Sicily on September 1st. 2020.
Unfortunately, stories like these have become quite common and often don't get as much attention anymore. However, Banksy with his purchase of the “Louise Michel” once again reminded us that the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is not over. Although his rescue boat didn't do many missions or save thousands and thousands of people, it gained public attention and reignited the debate on the issue, as it involved Banksy himself. His fame still plays a role, and this action is considered one of the most ambitious militant gestures ever made by an artist.