On Wednesday, word spread that a new Banksy stencil had appeared in Melbourne's Hosier Lane. It featured One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
Overnight, Banksy's representatives have slammed the piece as "totally fake" and labelled it as a publicity stunt to promote an unauthorised exhibition of the elusive street artist's paintings, which is opening soon in Melbourne.
In the piece, Hanson wears a "fuck off, we're fools" t-shirt—riffing on her controversial stance on immigration. It's signed by "Banksy" and titled, in reference to one of the right wing politician's favourite catchphrases, "Please explain?"
Banksy was first linked to the artwork when a passing laneway enthusiast captured footage of a hooded figure finishing off the stencil on Tuesday night. The video was quickly uploaded to YouTube, with the slightly overzealous title "I just caught Banksy on camera!"
Despite her enthusiasm, it would appear that the timing of the stencil's appearance is a little too convenient. Across the road, Melbourne's Federation Square is hosting an unauthorised Banksy exhibition that opens on Thursday.
The retrospective, made up of Banksy artworks from private collections, is curated by the stencil artist's estranged former manager Steve Lazarides. He and Banksy are not on speaking terms, after falling out more than a decade ago.
On Thursday Pest Control, the agency that authenticates Banksy's artworks around the world, told Crikey that the stencil was a "hoax." The artist's publicist Jo Brooks said that it was "a blatant attempt to garner publicity for an unauthorised show."
Even prior to Banksy's representatives reaching out, there were early signs that the stencil was a fake. For one thing, the footage captured of the hooded artist clearly depicts him saying "fuck off" in an Australian accent. It's extremely unlikely that Banksy is a local—his artworks first appeared in Bristol in the early 1990s, and he has been assumed to be a UK resident since that time.
In September, British journalist Craig Williams unveiled a detailed theory that the anonymous street artist is none other than 90s trip hop musician Robert "3D" Del Naja, founding member of Massive Attack.
It also doesn't seem particularly likely that a globally famous street artist would travel all the way to Australia simply to immortalise the face of Pauline Hanson. Or does it?
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