My name is Banksy and I cannot draw horses.
I have been trying to draw horses since I first picked up a pencil and paper at age two, but they always came out looking really goofy, like a person on all fours.
Horses are the only thing I cannot draw. People? No problem. Tall buildings? Easy as pie. Subversive and satirical pieces that push the boundaries of what and where people will consider art? All day, every day. But horses? They always look out of proportion to the barns they are next to, and when I try to do their heads, they look like tiny-eyed giraffes.
Every artist has one thing he struggles with, spends his whole career trying to push himself to accomplish, really challenges himself to tackle truthfully, with elegance, originality, and simplicity. For some, it’s cars. Others, it’s making people in the background look smaller than people closer to the front. For me, the infamous street artist known only as Banksy, it’s horses, the bloody things.
Every night when I go out to make one of my instantly-famous, thought-provoking installations that attacks the status quo and takes power out of the hands of the powerful, I try to incorporate a drawing of a horse. But at the last second I always chicken out. Those manes are tricky—there are so many little hairs. When I am making something that criticizes and cheekily endorses the capitalization and commercialization of art, I cannot have a horse with hooves ten times bigger than its legs. That’s amateur hour, and I am Banksy, the guy who could only get a couple of people to buy his paintings at a pop-up art stand in New York, proving that an artist’s success is more about the artist than it is about the art. What does that say about how we fetishize celebrities and marginalize true artistic talent? There are zero horses.
One time, I got one horse looking pretty good, until I got to the tail, which totally threw me. It just looked like a lightening bolt, and that distracted from the mural that read ONE NATION UNDER CCTV. I painted over the horsey, and though the piece (a strong but playful indictment of increasing government surveillance and unchecked jingoism) eventually sold for thirty thousand U.S. dollars, in my heart, I knew it was horseless rubbish, and that I was a fraud.
There are a lot of people on the Internet who want to know who I really am. They don’t understand that I work under a pseudonym to both cultivate my outlaw status and protect myself from the shame that I cannot draw horses, maybe the simplest animal to draw according to the book How To Draw Animals. My niece can draw a horse, and she still believes in Santa Claus and the façade of benevolence from multinational corporations.
That Mr. Brainwash guy? The one profiled in my documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop, who many postulate is either me or put-on to show the lunacy that results when art is turned into a commodity to be bought and sold? Guy draws perfect horses. He gets the legs so they’re skinnier than the body, but not so skinny that it’s like four toothpicks holding up a very cylindrical cat (that’s what Mr. Brainwash thought my horses were). The editor for the film made me take out over forty minutes of Mr. Brainwash drawing breathtaking, lifelike horses—she said it distracted from the point of the movie. But to me, that was the point of the movie! It wasn’t about how the art world confuses mediocrity and originality, and imitation with influence. I wanted to show people how great he is at drawing horses! It’s like looking at a photograph! I still can’t believe people think I’m him, the kind of guy who knows how to draw a horse. That says a lot about what people are willing to be suckered in by our culture that’s ridden with cynicism, boredom, and despair. It’s also the highest compliment I could ever receive.
It’s not hard to do what I do. Any idiot can defile an ugly building and openly mock our classist, fascist, imperialistic, celebrity-obsessed society. Here’s a picture of Charles Manson hitchhiking. Here’s one of a boy shining Ronald McDonald’s shoes. But a horse is a majestic, noble creature, and to get it looking right is to get just a little bit closer to God. Don’t believe me? Maybe you shouldn’t. I am Banksy, after all. Even if my art is a revenge fantasy against the bourgeoisie, at the end of the day, it’s all just silly fun.
I’m just worried without a pretty little horse running around, people won’t get the joke.