How A Bloke From Bristol Pulls One Off On The Cognoscenti
In a piece titled BANKSY WAS HERE – The invisible man of graffiti art, in the May 14 edition of The New Yorker, Lauren Collins profiles the anonymous artist known as “Banksy“, who through the talent of his street art and apparent clever marketing strategy, has elevated the creation of graffiti not only to a revenue generating cottage industry but also to an esthetically and social accepted plateau.
Not to be confused with the “tagging” or territorial declarations of disaffected urban youth, this is actual artwork applied without permission, and usually under the cover of darkness, on to structures and objects in public spaces.
“Maid in London” being a typical example of Banksy’s work.
Banksy’s artistic vision, in the view of the staff at BFD is one of whimsy and commentary on contemporary life, tempered by a healthy contempt towards anyone who might appreciate his work. Banksy is purported to hail from Bristol, England, where he first made a name for himself, and now seems to be heralded by the city fathers as related in the New Yorker Piece:
If Bristol is, as James told me, “the graffiti capital of England,” then Banksy is its patron sinner. One morning last June, citizens were surprised to find a new mural downtown, on the side of a sexual-health clinic. It depicted a window, a perfect imitation of others nearby. From the sill, a naked man dangled by his fingertips. Inside, a fully dressed man scanned the horizon, next to a woman in dishabille. Directly facing the fake window are the offices of the Bristol city council, which, in a departure from policy, decided to put the mural’s fate to a public vote. Of about a thousand respondents, ninety-three per cent said the mural should stay. So it did. (In late April, however, London authorities whitewashed Banksy’s famous “Pulp Fiction” mural, which showed John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson holding bananas instead of handguns.) “Banksy’s latest work of art is superb,” a man wrote to the local paper. “If the council wants to do something it should cut down that dreadful shrub which is obscuring the piece.” Gary Hopkins, a councilman, told me, “I think we undermined his street cred by making him mainstream.” Even James admitted to a grudging affection for Banksy. “I like the one where he’s got a picture of a stream and a bridge and he’s just dumped a shopping trolley in there,” she said, referring to a painting that Banksy did in the style of Monet. “I can relate to that, because we’ve got a problem with shopping trolleys.”
“Pissing Guard” an example of Banksy’s whimsical thumbing of his nose.
Banksy’s work overshadows a bit of adjacent graffiti in this New York scene, and is very appealing to the BFD sense of humor (note the path of the green electrical cable):
The bottom line, in our estimation, is that a guy can’t go wrong if what he does allows him to have some fun, and make a buck, and he is not hurting anyone (except maybe a stuffed shirt) while making a few bucks. Or, apparently, as related in the New Yorker Piece, a lot of bucks:
In February, Sotheby’s presented seven works by Banksy in a sale of contemporary art. “Bombing Middle England” (2001), an acrylic-and-spray-paint stencil on canvas, featuring a trio of retirees playing boules with live shells, was estimated to bring between sixty and a hundred thousand dollars. It sold for two hundred thousand. (“Bombing” is slang for writing graffiti.) Last month, a painting titled “Space Girl and Bird” sold at Bonham’s for five hundred and seventy-five thousand, a Banksy record. Ralph Taylor, a specialist in the Sotheby’s contemporary-art department, said of Banksy, “He is the quickest-growing artist anyone has ever seen of all time.” Banksy responded to the Sotheby’s sale by posting a painting on his Web site. It featured an auctioneer presiding over a crowd of rapt bidders, with the caption “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.
Interested in more graffiti as art, check out “Art Crimes – The Writing On The Wall“