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Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled by Banksy

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled by Banksy.

About the Work

Title: Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled
Artist : Banksy
Year : 2010
Location : Chinatown, Boston, Massachusetts

Banksy_Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled, 2010_Artwork in Focus_Divvya Nirula
Follow Yoru Dreams, Cancelled, 2010 by Banksy
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Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled

Follow Your Dreams, Cancelled is one of Banksy’s most famous artworks that makes a socio-political statement about the great American dream being a great disappointment, and a sham – to an extent. This is coming from the perspective of those who live in underprivileged areas and have minimal access to the means to build even a moderately successful life. The work shows an old-ish labourer/ immigrant/ lower class man with slumped shoulders and an expression of dissatisfaction, holding a bucket of paint. He has deliberately painted the ‘cancelled’ sign in red, over the black and white print, to highlight the harsh reality.

The painting makes a statement of sorts by virtue of its presence and placement in Chinatown in Boston, an area which is home to a varied migrant population, struggling to make a living. Banksy draws on the theme that the reality (in red) is that the dreams won’t be true. He mocks the concept of America of being the land of opportunity and dreams, and an America of plenty. The expression on the man and the deliberation of his act betraying the grim reality.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”


The work is especially hard hitting as it is representative of the reality of life, the hard-hitting truth that one may never come even close to their dream and all roads leading to the dream can end as a dead end.

Chinatown is known for some low- income areas, where youngsters are less likely to reach, let alone follow their dreams due to financial stress, and other obstacles. The location of this art, adds to it’s poignancy, however the artist in no way milks the condition, rather is a silent speaker. Banksy, effectively, puts into perspective the great disparity between the privileged and the entitled and the under privileged, that dreams will die under financial issues, where they live and due to class status.

Other Details

The artists identity has been kept secret as it considered as vandalising of public property, and that there was a 3000 pound fine that he has been charged with. His satirical statement do not go down well with the authority. It isn’t simply a case of defacement, but he fact that art has yet again struck a chord of reality.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.

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