Baku Days: Has British graffiti artist Banksy been at work in Baku?

Lenin: Dressed for the 21st century or green with envy?

Banky, the well-known British Graffiti artist may have been in Baku recently. I think this because the remains of Lenin’s head [inside the partially demolished Kirov Monument] has been repainted yellow and green with a black shirt and lilac tie. Not only that, but several splendid and ironic graffiti murals now adorn the walls of the derelict ballroom that lies directly below the area, once occupied by a huge statue of the Soviet hero that used to dominate the skyline.

Ironic Banksy graffiti mural, London 2008

Banksy came to prominence in the in the 1990’s through his ironic commentaries on the political and social environment of modern-day Britain. His work is often humorous, anti-war, anti establishment and anti government. Here is a link to a website dedicated to his work:

OK, the work in Baku is completely different. To be honest, I don’t think the murals that have sprung up inside the Kirov monument have anything to do with Banksy but I am pretty sure that they were created by British or American Graffiti artists with an agenda to inspire their Azeri counterparts.

"Graffiti, what is it?"

Graffiti artwork in Azerbaijan is very basic. usually all it consists of is a simple tag, a first name followed by an ironic .com or .az. In a year of travelling around Azerbaijan, I have never seen the depiction of figures or the use of colour.

My personal feeling is that this series of murals [here is a link to my Picasa album dedicated to the work] was created to open young Azeri’s eyes to a different way of expressing themselves.

The stairwell down to the ballroom

The established arts-scene in Azerbaijan is of a high standard [as a trip to the contemporary art museum will testify] but very conservative. There seems to be a tacit agreement amongst creative people that real art has to be oil on canvas, regardless of the subject matter. I have seen no digital artworks, installation artworks, sound sculptures or conceptual artworks since I arrived here in August 2010.

My hope is that this unique example of an archetypal western art form will inspire young, artists to experiment with new methods of creating art…


About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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5 Responses to Baku Days: Has British graffiti artist Banksy been at work in Baku?

  1. Natalya says:

    If you go down Vidadi there are some really cool graffiti images — one of Lenin in a flower, another of a woman — I love it!

  2. Xarici says:

    You will have to check in on that place often and see if and when they clean it all off.

    Really cool stuff!

  3. May be it will be useful info for you)) Unfortunately it wasn’t Banksy.))) Our team “Urban Art” did that with Lenin’s head and all other works around Baku. I have a lot of photos & video of process. If you want more info just find me on

  4. ne100 says:

    all about graffiti in Azerbaijan, not about banksy

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