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Robbing the Banksy
May 15, 2014 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Was the pilfered painting worth it? Detroit's 555 Gallery saved a stencil from scrappers, but now wants to sell it.
posted by klangklangston (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know one of the guys who claims to have painted it. If he said he did it, then he did. The two gallery owners have gotten more publicity over the murky provenance than the original theft. At least here in Detroit they have.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:16 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


"Is it more cost-effective for Banksy to go city to city to do this? Or does Banksy sit in his house, work on art, and send digital files to 50 other artists in 50 other cities, who he trusts, and have them cut the stencils and go put them up? Because that’s how it works."
That is fascinating, and I hope someone follows up on this theory behind how Banksy operates. Or if someone already has, I hope that it gets some notice and we get to hear more about what they found.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:19 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Of course, if this is the case, what do we consider a "real" Banksy?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:22 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I think part of Banksy's whole deal is seeing just how dumb a thing he can get people to pay money for (which isn't a criticism of him). Like I'm sure he could print out the Google image results for 'Banksy' and staple it to a telephone pole and someone could rip it down and sell it for thousands if they could prove he put it there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Of course, if this is the case, what do we consider a "real" Banksy?

It seems to me that filling in the paint in the stencil is a purely mechanical task. If the concept and the composition of the image is Banksy's then the resulting graffiti is Banksy's. I'd be no more troubled by "he didn't fill in the actual stencil" than I am by "his studio assistants prepared the canvas, ground the paints and painted some of the less challenging portions of the image (see most Western Art ever)" or "after she modeled the plaster cast, the foundry workers cast the bronze itself."
posted by yoink at 12:29 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I used to explore the Packard plant all the time. There is much better work there than this one, regardless of who actually painted it.

I'm glad 555 is still getting grief for this.
posted by ish__ at 12:36 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


If the concept and the composition of the image is Banksy's then the resulting graffiti is Banksy's.

See, also, Sol LeWitt.
posted by The Bellman at 12:42 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that filling in the paint in the stencil is a purely mechanical task. If the concept and the composition of the image is Banksy's then the resulting graffiti is Banksy's.

Part of the issue is that Naimi and Oxley are trying to have it both ways, intimating very strongly that they were Banksy's mechanical stencil-fillers while simultaneously saying "Don’t sell it as a Banksy."

Their overall argument seems to be that Banksy didn't intend for that piece to be sold, and therefore 555 is essentially stealing from the artist, but their muddying of the waters of who the artist is isn't helping.
posted by Etrigan at 12:50 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that filling in the paint in the stencil is a purely mechanical task.

To me this goes a bit further. Bansky never touched the work, never signed it. He wasn't there when it was made. He had no physical involvement other than emailing some SVG files or whatever that was tuned into stencils, and a set of instructions.

So it seems the location is important. The wall was a Bansky because Bansky wanted to put it there. If I took those instructions and stencil and painted my own copy on my own wall, it wouldn't be a Banksy.

The buyers would be getting an item that was made with a reproducible stencil designed by Bansky, that has the history of having once been in a place Banksy wanted to put it.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:52 PM on May 15


So it seems the location is important. The wall was a Bansky because Bansky wanted to put it there.

Naimi and Oxley didn't say that the location was part of what Banksy sent them, so even if we take them as 100 percent honest, we don't know that it was a Banksy-chosen wall.
posted by Etrigan at 12:55 PM on May 15


Ehehehehe. I'm sure all this consternation is just ruining Banksy's day.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:57 PM on May 15


We know he wanted to put one such piece in Detroit.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:03 PM on May 15


Well, if Bansky has disowned the piece because he doesn't agree with the actions of 555, it seems like he's encouraging the well to be poisoned deliberately to discourage actions like that in the future. If this is the case, Naimi and Oxley are acting on Bansky's desires and by stating that they painted it (they do not appear to claim they created the stencil) they're not even being disingenuous.
On preview, what sandettie light vessel automatic said.
posted by WaylandSmith at 1:06 PM on May 15


We know he wanted to put one such piece in Detroit.

Yes, but "in Detroit" is 138.75 square miles. You said, "The wall was a Bansky because Bansky wanted to put it there." (emphasis added) If it comes out that Banksy had (by whatever method) picked that wall, or even just "some wall in the Packard plant," then it's definitely more of "a Banksy [wall]" than if he'd just sent out files and let Naimi and Oxley pick where to put it. But we don't know which is the case from this article.
posted by Etrigan at 1:12 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The person holding the paint bucket is not smoking a cigarette, ergo it cannot be a "Banksy."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:13 PM on May 15


He wasn't there when it was made. He had no physical involvement other than emailing some SVG files or whatever that was tuned into stencils, and a set of instructions.

So basically Banksy has co-opted Jeff Koons's M.O.?
posted by asterix at 1:46 PM on May 15


I am very disappointed they have sullied the name of the venerable 555 timer IC.
posted by ckape at 1:53 PM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Jeff Koons signs his pieces.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:06 PM on May 15


The Bellman: See, also, Sol LeWitt.

asterix: So basically Banksy has co-opted Jeff Koons's M.O.?

Behold, the artist as manager (Google books preview). Neither Koons nor Sol LeWitt were the first to be the "artist" who directed others to act, and the linked article/piece clarifies. Modern cases of the artist managing others to create a piece goes back to the 1960s (per the linked article). Warhol had his factory, and Peter Paul Rubens had assistants help him churn out religious images.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 PM on May 15


Kinkade's production method has been described as "a semi-industrial process in which low-level apprentices embellish a prefab base provided by Kinkade."
posted by mcrandello at 3:34 AM on May 16


I'm having a hard time with this one.

So say someone stole a piece of an Richard Serra sculpture that had been built into and partially buried in the side of a hill or something. That would feel like theft to me, because he fundamentally altered the landscape, and the landscape has become part of the sculpture.

But if I put an image on a wall, the wall and the building that it's attached to and the neighborhood it's located in, they don't become part of the image.

Artists create a work and once that work is finished, they are essentially cut out of deciding what happens to it, unless they keep it in their studio. If it's sold or donated or out in the world and not being maintained by some private or public concern, the person who has it can sell it or give it to a museum and or keep it in their private collection or eat ham sandwiches off of it. The artist doesn't get to say where it ends up.

All of this is to say that while I like the idea of ephemeral and impermanent art that crumbles as the building crumbles, I disagree that 555 did anything wrong in this situation.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:34 AM on May 16


"But if I put an image on a wall, the wall and the building that it's attached to and the neighborhood it's located in, they don't become part of the image."

Part of the image versus part of the work? Because there's a lot of site-specific throw-ups that are definitely reacting and incorporating the setting they're in.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


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