Banksy Finances and Paints a Refugee Rescue Boat for the Mediterranean

Art News, Graffiti & Street Art

August 28, 2020

A rescue ship set off to the Mediterranean Sea in secrecy on 18 August and has since saved 89 people in distress, mainly migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa.

It is unfortunately not news that many people seeking refuge lose their lives at sea, but what sets this particular boat apart is that it has been sponsored and painted by one Banksy.

The vessel, named Louise Michel after the important French anarchist and feminist from the 19th century, has been painted pink and white. Upon closer look, we can also noticed Banksy’s famed Girl with Balloon, only this time she is holding a heart-shaped safety buoy.

Banksy Paints a Refugee Boat

As first reported by The Guardian, Banksy first got involved in September 2019, when he sent an email to Pia Klemp, former captain of several other NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people in recent years.

Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy. 

And so, a ship was docked in Burriana, near Valencia, Spain, for a few days while being equipped for rescue operations. In the pictures taken on site, the artwork of the girl with the buoy was covered with blue cloth, probably as to not reveal Banksy’s involvement just yet.

The pink paint on Louise Michel reminds us of another one of Banksy’s recent public works, involving a child holding a pink torch painted on the canal banks of Venice during the last Art Biennale there.

According to official numbers, more than 500 refugees and migrants have already lost their lives in 2020 alone, through the real number is likely to be much higher.

Featured image: Louise Michel boat painted by Banksy. Photos by Ruben Neugebauer/Sea-Watch.

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