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Did Banksy steal from a cartoonist?

A cartoonist is claiming anonymous street artist Banksy has stolen ideas from her work.

Cinders McLeod, a Canadian cartoonist, noticed similarities between Banksy’s works and some of her own when she attended an exhibit of Banksy’s works in Toronto earlier this year. She was surprised by how many of the exhibits reminded her of her own work.

McLeod produced the works from 1997 to 2001 while she was a freelance cartoonist for the Glasgow Herald. She said 16 of her works might have provided inspiration to Banksy’s works, and they were done before Banksy released his versions.

Of the 16, three of them have the most similarity to Banksy’s, featuring people hugging bombs, old women bowling bombs, and people in deep sea diving masks hugging.

McLeod believes Banksy’s cover for Blur’s 2003 album Think Tank, which shows two people in diving helmets embracing, was taken directly from her illustration Deep Sea Lovers, published in the Glasgow Herald in March 1997.

She also said her Cupid’s Bomb cartoon, published in 2000, of a cherub hugging a bomb, had a striking resemblance to Banksy’s Bomb Hugger stencil, which first appeared in Brighton in 2003. Banksy’s version is of a girl hugging a bomb instead of Cupid.

Perhaps the piece with the most striking resemblance is McLeod’s Turf, published in the Glasgow Herald in 1999. It featured an old lady bowling with a ball that looks like a bomb, complete with a burning wick. Banksy’s version, called Anarchic Granny, is horizontal and shows three old ladies in hats bowling bombs on a green field.

Banksy made the news recently when an artwork of his was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for £1.04 million. It was shredded by a contraption built into the frame just after the auction finished. The buyer said she would go through with the acquisition. Sotheby is framing the destruction of the work in a positive light, saying: “the piece has become the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction”. Banksy himself has given the artwork a new title: “Love is in the Bin”.

As with most cases of artists who find out that they might have been copied from, McLeod seems resigned to just making her case on social media.

She said: “I’m all for sharing ideas, but it’s one thing to steal from dead, wealthy, male artists, and another to pinch from living and struggling, political women and mother artists, and not give them credit.”

McLeod does not seem to be pursuing monetary compensation and is likely to not take legal action against Banksy, who has made great effort to make his identity unknown. Banksy has not released a statement on these accusations. 

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

Press contact Managing Partner (+65) 6223 2249

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