Current Affairs or Current Artfairs?

Words by Tom Benny
Illustration by Sahina Sherchan

COVID-19 has undoubtedly wrenched us all into a period of global uncertainty. Businesses have been shutting down left right and centre, political leaders have proven to make the situation more complex and convoluted than necessary, and hospitals have been pushed to breaking point, despite valiant efforts.

In light of this seemingly ceaseless catastrophe, artists across the world have utilised their talents to reflect the tumultuous times we are currently living in. Whether that be through images of unity between figures clad in facemasks, or satirical depictions of hopeless heads of office from Brazil to Australia.

Big names such as Banksy, among other guerrilla artists, took to the empty lockdown-stricken streets to paint their thoughts on stone-grey walls to impart us all with a bit of colour and hope.

Below we can see one of Banksy’s more recent artworks entitled ‘Game Changer’ which has been painted for Southampton General Hospital, displayed in a hallway near the A&E department.

Banksy, 'Game Changer', 2020

The artwork depicts a young boy who has abandoned his old toy heroes for someone even more heroic. The boy holds aloft a nurse figurine equipped with a cape and facemask, along with a red cross emblazoned across her chest. Notably the only colour, aside from black and white, in this piece.

The money raised from the auction of this artwork will be donated to NHS charities as a thank you from Banksy.

Depictions of heroic hospital workers have been sighted all over the world, take these pieces from Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Melbourne, Australia.

The one from Melbourne holds a tremendous amount of gravitas. It excellently portrays how nurses and doctors are at the frontier during this colossal moment in time. The angelic figure holds the earth up as if they were the titan Atlas, while at the same time trying to supress the dark horizon of the encroaching virus.

It is not just the heroism of hospital workers which is being expressed on walls around the world. There has also been a call for collectivism and friendship, in the face of what ails us all.

Street art in Tamworth.

Texas, USA
Tamworth, UK

All these images do an explicit job of saying we are all in this together, despite what may divide and separate us. Whether that may be religion, distance, or simply masks.

However, other street artists have not been as positive about the whole situation. Some have taken the opportunity to reflect on the political situation by depicting world leaders in punishingly satirical forms.

President of the USA Donald Trump, President of China Xi Jinping, and President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, have all been the key targets in this onslaught of parody.

Take these two from Copenhagen and Australia. The message being all too clear.

Über die Versager der Corona-Krise - Politik: Aktuelle ...

This next one from Brazil featuring Jair Bolsonaro does not hold back in its statement either, the caption translating to: “Who’s side are you on?”. The Brazilian president is shown on the side of the virus, in a game of tug of war against hospital workers, who are once again presented in a heroic fashion.

 Poor Bo-Jo isn’t safe from the criticism either it seems.

London, UK

All these critical and amusing depictions are obviously calling out our world leaders for their hopeless handling of the virus. Whether that be Trump downplaying the dangers of the situation by refusing to wear a mask, or Bolsonaro telling the Brazilian people to “face up to it” because apparently, they will all get it. Not to mention Johnson’s unhelpful and confusing advice during lockdown.

With lockdowns being lifted and the world beginning to start up again, these pieces of art might rapidly become irrelevant. Despite this, looking back upon them provides beautifully concise expressions as to what everyone was thinking during the pandemic.

Sources used:
(Game Changer)
(Supernurse Mask and Doctor lifting earth)
(Religious Children)
(Howdy how are you?)
(Gas mask bros)
(Trump and Jinping)