Banksy has recently taken to selling his art online through his new homewares shop Gross Domestic Product. One of the products you can pick up there is his Met Ball, a “home entertainment lighting system made from an old Police riot helmet and approximately 650 little mirrors.” The discoball helmet is limited to just 15 and sells for £500.00.
The move online was necessitated by a trademark claim on Banksy’s name. It seems that a trading card company is trying to take control of the artist’s trademark since he hasn’t been using it himself. “Banksy has been forced into the merchandising market,” says Banksy’s lawyer, Mark Stephens. The lawyer continued, saying, “Bansky’s one of the most ripped off artists in the world. He was being plagiarized by big business. We would see stuff that was out of register, in the wrong color, or the wrong way around, facing right to left instead of left to right as in the original design. The integrity of the work is being trampled upon, and it’s being done for commercial purposes.” Not that Banksy is opposed to his work being used. “He’s quite happy for his work to be used for activism and personal enjoyment,” states Stephens, “but big corporate groups interested in making a profit pervert the art and take away from its real meanings.”
So how does the artist justify making a profit himself? “The proceeds from these products will go towards buying a new migrant rescue boat to replace the one confiscated by Italian authorities,” Banksy says in a statement. The confiscated boat was the Spanish ship, Open Arms. “So you may well be committing a criminal offense by purchasing them.”
The Met Ball riot helmet is joined by products like a shredded t-shirt, hand-stitched welcome mats made form life vest fabric, and a spray-painted stab-proof vest. If you’re not sure you can afford the price tag, don’t worry, the artist’s site affirms that “the artist would like to make it clear that he continues to encourage the copying, borrowing, and uncredited use of his imagery for amusement, activism, and education purposes. Feel free to make merch for your own personal entertainment and non-profit activism for good causes.”