An unusual poster in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter may have caused many people to stop on their way in the last few days. At the intersection of Carrer de Bisbe to Plaza de Sant Jaume, a poster appeared beside the window of a shoe shop. It shows Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” – holding a smartphone in her hand and wearing a protective face mask that hides her famous smile. A description next to the poster tells the title “Mobile World Virus” and refers to the homepage of the urban artist Salvatore Benintende, known as TVBoy.
“Western infection phobia”
Obviously the artwork alludes to the annulated Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world’s biggest phone fair. It was supposed to take place at the end of February in Barcelona but was cancelled due to the worldwide circulating Corona Virus. The title “Mobile World Virus” and the smartphone in Mona Lisa’s hand suggest that the artist relates the spread of the virus not only to the MWC, but also to globalization and modern society’s lifestyle.
“I want to make us reflect on whether technology is a vaccine or a virus that makes us slaves”, TVBoy said to elpais.com. He explains further, he wants to alert people to the “Western infection phobia”, using Mona Lisa as a symbol of the Western world. The designer suggests parallels between the Western fear of the Chinese virus and its fear of China’s technological superiority. That is referring to theories that the latter should have been a reason for the cancellation of the event.
A common opinion
TVBoy’s followers are enthusiastic about his work and admire its actuality and socio-political relevance. Within two weeks, his post of the “Mobile World Virus” already reached almost 9,000 Likes on Instagram. Media reported on numerous people who came to photograph the work. Using the Hashtag #mobileworldvirus they shared the art piece in their social media feeds and stories.
On Instagram TVBoy commented: „Fear is our worst enemy. United we stand, divided we fall.” Plenty of Instagram comments and media reports share TVBoy’s opinion and criticize the decision to cancel the MWC because of its economic and social concequences. Elpais.com calls it a “hysterical and unjustified reaction”. The World Health Organization also confirms that “fear and panic doesn’t help”.
Political street art
TVBoy is an Italian urban artist living in Barcelona. He usually installs his works in the streets of big cities and distributes them via social media. But you can also find his art at exhibitions or in his online shop. His style is similar to the urban pop art style of the British street artist Banksy, who became known for his politically and socially critical stencil graffiti. The works of TVBoy are also often politically or socio-critically motivated.
During the last months, for example, he has attracted attention in Barcelona with illustrations of Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg or a portrayal of the Spanish politicians Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Casado kissing each other. Recently TVBoy installed a second art work dealing with the Corona Virus in Milano, Italy, that reached over 20,000 likes within one day.