From Iceland — The Absurd Case Of The Punk Mayor And Banksy

The Absurd Case Of The Punk Mayor And Banksy

Published November 13, 2018

Valur Grettisson

When Jón Gnarr, former mayor of Reykjavík and a renowned artist, published a picture of him with his dog going to sleep, and posted it on Twitter, he did not expect it to end as the scandal of the weekend. In the photo you can see Jón holding his dog, Klaki, and on top of the post Jón wrote in Icelandic: “Me and Klaki bid good night.”

A heartfelt and slightly funny moment that looked innocent enough.

Few days later, a story broke in Fréttablaðið, the biggest newspaper in Iceland that said (in rough translation): “Personal gift from Banksy ended in the private living room of former mayor.”

It became clear that in the background of the heartfelt greetings from Jón Gnarr and his dog was the painting of Banksy “Flower Thrower”, also known as “Flower Bomber”.

For those that keep an eye on the Icelandic politics, Jón Gnarr is very well known. For others, Jón Gnarr came like storm into to the turmoil and the mess of Icelandic politics and the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2010 with the Best Party. They more or less swept the old establishment out of City Hall. It was one of the first indications that Iceland was on a serious crossroads when it came to politics.

This event was heard all over the world and Jón Gnarr, who was a well known comedian at the time, and an old punk rocker, became world famous for his vision in politics.

He is of course also famous for being impulsive. Which is probably the reason he contacted the spokesperson of Banksy and asked him if he could have a painting by the artist. The spokesperson answered shortly thereafter, and said that they would send him a print of Banksy’s famous graffiti of the flower thrower under the condition that it hang in the mayor’s office.

So then. The foreseeable happened. The internet broke when the news story was out. Thousand of Icelanders condemned this and others wrote saintly articles where they stated that this was unforgivable. First of all, the punk mayor broke the condition that Banksy held, which was that the artwork should hang in the mayor’s office. Second of all, it’s almost immoral to hide this artwork on the wall of a living room. And third—this is something that Morgunblaðið highlighted, a right wing newspaper with an editor-in-chief who is a former mayor of Reykjavík himself—that he should have paid taxes from the gift. And of course the following question was raised: What the hell is the value for an artwork from an artist that sold a destroyed painting for millions of euros?

Finally, when the angry mob had had their feast, Jón Gnarr explained, on his own Facebook, that this was a print, like some media explained years ago when Jón first received the artwork. The worth of it was perhaps a few euros and everybody could (and should) buy one. Jón Gnarr said that he paid some money for having it framed. That was around 350 euros worth. But it was true, the artwork was a gift from the artist, which could possibly change the worth of it.

The mayor’s office investigated, at the time when Jón left as a mayor, if this was a personal gift to him or the city, and concluded that this was Jón’s property. So there were no uncertainty about the legality of it, according to the spokesperson of the mayor’s office.

Of course some kept on pressing that the artist’s intention was to have it hanging in the mayor’s office. Then again, there have been two elections since Jón Gnarr quit politics, and he doesn’t really control what hangs on the walls there anymore. And with full respect, neither does Banksy.

Well, at least this could be a plot for Banksy’s next mockumentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop 2: Punk Mayor’s Trial By Fire.

And when you think about it, this is probably a live performance by Banksy, and is worth millions.

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