A Banksy painting entitled Trolley Hunters, a critique on corporate food production that portrays ‘early man’ prowling on a hunt for shopping carts in a savanna, has been stolen from an exhibition in Toronto. What makes matters even more interesting is that the anti-consummerism artist has not authorized the exhibition in question and would probably hate the idea of the steep entrance fee that his former agent is asking from all those who want to see the show.
The perp and Banksy have this in common: They are both anonymous and both at large. Banksy has made a career drawing stencil prints on walls throughout the world – prints which criticize authority, advocate for certain social reforms and bring attention to causes. His works are created to inspire action. They are made so that ordinary pedestrians can take heart. His art is for the streets. As for the art-robber, he came in off the streets. He then proceeded to walk through the gallery, swiped a Banksy painting off the wall and walk out before being caught.
The elusive guest was savvy enough to avoid looking into the CCTV cameras that are strategically positioned throughout the exhibition. If we wouldn’t know any better, we’d think the art thief might have been Banksy himself. As poetic justice goes, this theft is symbolic enough to make an artist blush Rothko red.
It would undoubtedbly make a splendid theme for a performance art work – one that could be described in three ways: (A) Artist steals his own work from a gallery. (B) Artist takes back his work from a show he never authorized. (C) Artist renwoned for anti-consummerism steals his own work in an effort to prevent a capitalist curator from exploiting it for expensive ticket sales.
But whatever your take on the robbery, one thing remains clear: A print that pokes fun at food consummers has been lifted as easily as if it were a box of cereal in a supermarket. The burglar simply strolled down the aisle, picked out a Banksy product and waltzed away as if he had been double-parked. Trolley Hunters had been succumned to art hunters. If the getaway car outside would’ve been a shopping cart, the picture would’ve been complete.
At present, we know as much about the thief as we do about Banksy. Nothing to very little. As for the symbolism involved, it seems perfectly aligned with the work itself.