A new work by artist Banksy appeared on a wall today in London. The mural shows a child raising a plastic shopping bag as a flag. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he will have to force retailers to reduce the use of plastic bags if they do not take action voluntarily.
Banksy is a pseudonym for a well-known British graffiti artist. He is known for his beautifully detailed, unauthorized works, which usually include a deeper social message. One work, painted on the Palestinian side of the wall surrounding the West Bank, shows a trompe l'oeil image of a hole broken through the wall and a little boy on the other side.
In his manifesto, Banksy points to a graffiti campaign waged in 1974 against the wrongful imprisonment of a man named George Davis. The omnipresent tags reading "G. Davis Is Innocent" brought the matter to the attention of the Home Secretary, who re-examined the case, ultimately leading to Davis's release.
My question is this: Just because it's well-done and created with a higher purpose, is that enough to elevate Banksy's work from common vandalism? At what point does art eclipse illegality? How would you classify his work?