Christmas is a big deal in the United Kingdom, so big that even their most renowned anti-capitalist artist, Banksy, gets struck with the spirit from time to time. That isn’t to say Banky’s latest is devoid of commentary, it’s just a little less bleak this time around and a whole lot merrier. For his latest piece, Banksy has taken to the walls of Birmingham Central England’s Jewellery Quarter (see, commentary intact) to raise awareness about the U.K.’s homelessness problem. The new piece depicts two reindeer painted on the wall pulling a real-world bench, and to better convey the message, Banksy posted a video to his Instagram which shows a nearby homeless man, Ryan, sitting on the bench.
On the post, Banksy writes “God bless Birmingham. In the 20 minutes we filmed Ryan on this bench passers-by gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter — without him ever asking for anything.”
Once again, Banksy evaded the public from catching him in the act, though there were reportedly a few close calls. According to the Guardian, one commuter believes she caught a glimpse of the elusive artist but didn’t realize until after the fact. “It was around 7 o’clock on Friday morning when I got off the bus and saw a man giving a few snacks to a homeless man who was sitting on the bench. I wouldn’t have thought it was Banksy, I just thought it was someone helping out the homeless.” A nearby jeweller, Martin Clarke, saw “a couple of lads in high-vis vests” place a tent around the bench but assumed they were city employees doing routine upkeep.
“About half six I looked out the window and the tend had gone as had the lads. Then I saw it… I thought it was great. We weren’t sure what it was at first or who did it but we had a good idea,” says Clarke.
The mural is located on Vyse Street in Birmingham and barriers have since been put around the mural to protect it as fans of the artists flock to get an in-person glimpse. If it’s bothering you that both reindeer have red noses instead of just one, that’s not on Banksy, the red noses were added to the mural by a vandal after-the-fact. We expect Banksy to know there is and always will be just one Rudolph. Protective plastic has since been placed over the mural.
According to the Huffington Post, Shelter, A U.K. housing charity recently released a report that counted 135,000 children in Britain as homeless or living in temporary accommodations. The U.K. will hold its closely watched General Election this Thursday.