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In Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, what is it about the 'glass' dock sculptures on Miles Bron's private island that would make Lionel think that it was made by Banksy? Why would they actually be by Banksy?

I'm not super familiar with the art world, but I'm under the impression that Banksy makes art that is populist and anti-establishment, like murals in public places or paintings that shred themselves when sold at auction. While the implication seems to be that Bron is so wealthy he can buy the unbuyable, it doesn't seem to fit Banksy's persona. (Though it's possible that the dock only being accessible at low tide could be intentional.)

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  • google banksy molotov flowers.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 4:07
  • @shigginpit I think I've seen that one before, thanks! But even if the dock sculptures are the same design as the mural, does that necessarily mean that the sculptures are also by Banksy? Jan 3, 2023 at 4:17
  • I think (my opinion only) the important thing to note is that Miles Bron is being set up as a man of great wealth and questionable taste. This is a theme which keeps repeating itself. Your take on it is "just because it's a swirly picture of the sky does that make it Van Gogh's starry night?" but the point isn't who, the point is what. You yourself already drew attention to several points which make it ridiculous even in it's concept. Lionel is "inner circle", he's as close to the man as it gets, it's not such a great joke that they can just let it go without naming the artist, you know?
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 4:30
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    The point being, the director or producer, or writer, whoever it was - they knew the joke didn't play unless someone says the name of a famous artist who's work it resembles. The work in question is probably 10 or 15 years old so it's not like they picked a new image. But they still knew it didn't play on it's own, like for example, a golden toilet seat or a diamond toothbrush - those gags need no explanation. So the point is not if or who, the point is what and why. That's my take. I wouldn't think too deeply about jokes regarding how the 1% choose to spend their money.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 4:34
  • @shigginpit Simple narrative device does make sense. I guess it fell flat for me because I didn't recognize it. The superficial read of the sculptures as being 'a Banksy' when they wouldn't be is probably to further illustrate that, like the at-first-glance impressive puzzle boxes, the characters only pretend to class and intelligence. Jan 3, 2023 at 4:51

2 Answers 2

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The statues are of Banksy's Flower Thrower. Per Wikipedia:

The Flower Thrower, Flower Bomber, Rage, or Love is in the Air is a 2003 stencil mural in Beit Sahour in the West Bank by the graffiti artist Banksy, depicting a masked man throwing a bunch of flowers. It is considered one of Banksy's most iconic works; the image has been widely replicated.

Lionel, like most of the 'Disruptors', at least pretends to culture, so it is plausible that he would recognize such a famous design. Also, as Claire similarly indicates when first viewing the Mona Lisa, he knows Miles is wealthy enough to afford originals, not copies or prints.


I had trouble telling what the statues were supposed to be. They aren't on screen for very long, are seen from angles that are meant to show the full dock or the incoming boat or the characters rather than make the statues clearly visible, and were clear and wet in the glaring sun. The dock itself also being clear, and clearly a part of the art installation, further confused me.

Lionel was even farther away when he remarked to the boat captain "Is that dock a Banksy?". The specification of 'the dock' and 'a Banksy' suggested to me that the detail of the statues may not have been important for identifying the artist. But, as far as I know Banksy hasn't been interested in creating structures of any kind, nor in working directly for billionaires.

In the end, while the statues do appear to match the paintings, this is a name drop made for dramatic effect during an intentionally dramatic scene. As with the water of the low tide pulling away to reveal the dock alarmingly fast, the result is that the viewer's attention is deliberately drawn to the dock to make it memorable for future plot points to rest on while obscuring the practicality of its architectural nature. Lionel's remark is an effective narrative device that did work on me, even if it doesn't seem realistic on close inspection.

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  • "But, as far as I know Banksy hasn't been interested in creating structures of any kind, nor in working directly for billionaires." Serena Williams is also not known to be a personal trainer. Jeremy Renner isn't known for his hot sauce. Jared Leto isn't known for brewing hard kombucha. The running joke here is that Miles' extreme wealth has afforded him personal connections to celebrities to a point where Miles is either close enough to them to know personal and less-known hobbies (Renner, Leto) or wealthy enough to convince them to do something they generally don't (Banksy, Williams).
    – Flater
    Jan 12, 2023 at 23:22
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Lionel believes the dock is a Banksy because Miles Bron is very rich and doesn't need a copy of anything, he can buy an original, thus the writer fashioned the dock after the Banksy work Flower Thrower which is apparently what he (the writer) believed was Banksy's most recognizable "work" since said "work" is from 2003 and has made it's (photos of the original work or derivative works) way across the internet by now.

Also, as you stated, it's a simple narrative device, and Lionel is a modified embodiment of Clarke's first law, "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong".

He isn't elderly, but it's probably no coincidence that Lionel is a scientist as established by his position with Bron's company. In fact, the article I linked above goes on to say "His (Clarke's) definition of “elderly” was tongue-in-cheek: for those in physics, maths and astronautics."

Clarke's other laws make appearances in the film as well.

the second: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." which a lot of the plot revolves around until the third act where the "magician" shows his hand to the audience (I won't spoil it for people who haven't seen the film).

And Clarke's (most famous) third law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Which is also a constant theme in the film.

I would wager the writer is classically trained and probably a fan of science fiction as much as he is of the mystery genre. Edit: Rian Johnson, screenwriter / director of the film, graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and before Knives Out 2019, his prior 2 works are Looper and Star Wars the Last Jedi which are both in the science fiction genre.

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    What does all that have to do with Banksy?
    – Sneftel
    Jan 3, 2023 at 12:20
  • The answer has to do with Lionel, his role takes on a reoccurring theme of the voice of reason, one can only surmise he is not accidentally written as a career academic. The question isn't "who is Banksy?", the question is "How does Lionel know that the dock is a Banksy?". Would you prefer an answer like "oh because dude is a super famous artist, how could he not know who Banksy is?" if that is what you believe the writer was going for or you have some objective information that confirms your thinking then by all means, give that answer.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:14
  • I guess what I'm asking is, what is the full answer to the OP's question? The question was "what about the dock made Lionel believe it was a Banksy" and your answer was "because he's a scientist!" I genuinely do not understand the chain of inferences you're going for here.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:17
  • I answered that part in a comment. I thought to repeat it would be redundant.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:19
  • Edited to include the crux of the information from the OP's comment section.
    – shigginpit
    Jan 3, 2023 at 16:24

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