Radical Objects

Radical Objects: Banksy’s ‘Monopoly’

It’s an act of mischief and of radical genius. The board game which more than any other represents the untamed market, monopolistic greed and bankrupting your rivals has been suborned to serve the anti-capitalist cause.

The landmark of the Occupy London protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral¬† – it caught the attention of the Daily Mail among others – has been an outsize ‘Monopoly’ board. Made and presented, the protesters say, by the street artist Banksy. (And, perhaps inevitably, promptly graced by graffiti – apparently from some of the occupiers).


It features Monopoly’s trade mark Mr Money Bags in straitened circumstances, moustache drooping, and reduced to holding out his top hat to beg for change.

The red Monopoly house is tag marked ‘TOX’, an allusion to the toxic sub-prime loans which sparked off the financial crisis. The board includes the site of several Occupy camps – Wall Street, Finsbury Square – as well as countries such as Greece and Italy which are embroiled in the Euro crisis.

There are just two playing pieces – a sports car, representing the life style of the financiers, and a boot, which I imagine is what Banksy would like to do to the bankers.

When it was unveiled, the board game rivalled Wren’s Cathedral as a draw for the tourists’ cameras.

The Wikipedia entry on Monopoly reveals that the board game’s origins lie more than a century ago in the anti-landlord single tax movement associated with the radical economist Henry George. It was intended to illustrate the ills of monopolistic ownership of land.

The game was eventually marketed in the 1920s as ‘The Landlord’s Game’ – before being reborn as ‘Monopoly’, with any radical message shorn, in the following decade.

So perhaps Banksy has helped ‘Monopoly’ refind its radical roots.

‘Top Hat’

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