The meaning behind Banksy’s ‘Grin Reaper’ – Explained

Banksy’s artwork, “The Grin Reaper,” is a renowned piece that is both early and widely recognisable. The artwork depicts the infamous soul-collecting Grim Reaper standing atop a clock with a scythe, but with a unique twist that sets it apart. The skull’s traditional features have been replaced with a yellow smiley face, a symbol that represents 90s rave and acid-house culture. The decision to use this symbol changes the Grim Reaper to the Grin Reaper.

The clock depicted in the artwork is an imitation of London’s famous Big Ben, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The clock’s position in the artwork is also symbolic, as it shows five minutes to midnight, which may be a reference to the infamous “Doomsday Clock.” This clock represents how close humanity is to global catastrophe, and five minutes to midnight indicates that the world is on the brink of a major crisis.

During the early 2000s, Banksy created “The Grin Reaper” as a street piece on Old Street in East London, a hub for graffiti and street artists. Although the artwork was removed from its original location in 2007, it remains an iconic piece. Banksy has since incorporated the real Grim Reaper on a dodgem car in various exhibitions, including Dismaland and his New York residency, keeping its legacy ‘Staying Alive’.

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Through the clever combination of the yellow smiley face, the grim reaper, and the symbolic representation of the clock, Banksy’s artwork creates a thought-provoking image that challenges viewers to think deeply about the world around them while also reminding them you don’t know when the times up so enjoy life now and smile more.

Purchase Banksy’s Grin Reaper (signed)

Banksy’s Grin Reaper

Year: 2005

Medium: Screenprint in colours on wove paper

Size: 70×44 cm (27 1/2 x 17 3/8 inches)

Publisher: Pictures on Walls

Total Edition: 300 signed and Artist’s Proofs Edition: Various

To purchase a Banksy Grim Reaper print signed please visit our online store. Alternatively, you can contact us at GraffitiStreet, and we’ll be more than happy to assist you with your art purchase.



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