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Banksy of the Hudson River
March 24, 2005 2:17 AM   Subscribe

Iconic graffiti artist and cult hero, Banksy, has expanded his 'establishment' art resumé with exhibits in New York's most important art galleries.

Not very guerrilla of him.

Except that the galleries didn't know.
Naughty Banksy.
posted by NinjaPirate (41 comments total)

 
Nice post. I hadn't heard of Banksy, so this was an extra bonus for me. Thanks!
posted by sninky-chan at 2:31 AM on March 24, 2005


So I moved flat a few days ago, and this chap's van was grafitti'd to hell. I asked him if it was his own work and he informed me that it wasn't, but that a writer called Shogun -- a Banksy rival/wannabe -- had tagged the side of his van in response to Banksy's works. Looking at the other side of his van was an aweseom Banksy piece -- two faces in a sort of love-heart if I recall correctly -- but slightly weirded out by the effect of the dripping paint. Banksy had painted this as payment for helping him shift some gear. I felt pretty boring paying the guy money after that. Didn't get the chance to grab a photo. My camera was packed.
posted by nthdegx at 2:32 AM on March 24, 2005


I positively love this guy's work. The wallpaper on my cell phone vacillates between the Queen mum sitting imperially on the face of a servant girl and then one in the Guerilla link above with the Queen wearing the face of a chimp.

I mean seriously, wtf is up with state-sponsored royalty in the year 2005? Are people insane? Scratch that question. They clearly are.

Banksy is /still/ a breath of fresh air and still a very necessary artist all these years later. Poverty, police brutality, the crass commercialization of every last little facet of human existence... those are his targets, and God bless him for it. I wish him a very long, productive 'career'.
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:05 AM on March 24, 2005


Wow! This has completely shocked me out of my comfortable middle-class preconceptions! I must find out more about this counter-culture, with its hilarious and deeply meaningful juxtaposition of classical art and militaristic images. I really hope to find out that there's a whole magical world of rat silhouettes and authority figures with spliffs in their mouth and soldiers with smiley faces all the bloody way up Kingsland Road, because that would just completely fuck with my head!


/anti-Banksy, not anti-this-post, which is good
posted by flashboy at 3:52 AM on March 24, 2005


I should also offer my apologies to the underground, because the more exposure this gets, the more likely the final two exhibits are going to be found and removed.
Sadly I was too slow-witted to think of that before posting.

Fingers crossed that the remaining couple live long and happy lives. The conservative in me deplores the thought that they may be destroyed and I would really, genuinely love a version of that beetle, which is a little work of mastery.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:17 AM on March 24, 2005


I have tremendous admiration for Banksy because the man has become a voice of some (though arguable) import simply by flatly refusing to be kept out of whatever forum he chooses to participate in. I almost see his "counter-culture" nature as secondary to his nature as a spokesperson. As if it were more important that EVERYONE know that a little guy can speak loudly than for everyone to know that he hates the queen.

But that's my take on the matter. I'm not necessarily right.

Thanks for this, though.
posted by shmegegge at 4:23 AM on March 24, 2005


I should also offer my apologies to the underground, because the more exposure this gets, the more likely the final two exhibits are going to be found and removed.
Sadly I was too slow-witted to think of that before posting.


Swings and round-abouts, NP -- the more coverage it gets the more people see it before it is taken down. Don't stress it!

Unusual response there, flashboy! Why are you anti-Banksy? I'm genuinely interested.
posted by nthdegx at 4:24 AM on March 24, 2005


Being anti-Banksy might have something to do with living in the UK where he is massively overexposed, has a legion of copycats, and did stuff like this here years ago. He is quite an exciting figure when you first see his work in situ, or hear about stuff like this. It just gets old. His last big new idea, planting a bronze statue illegally in London went down like a ton of bricks (literally, the next day) and people are getting sick of his posturing.
posted by fire&wings at 4:42 AM on March 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


The beetle is my favourite too, NinjaPirate. Thanks for the great post.
posted by louigi at 5:06 AM on March 24, 2005


his function as a graffiti role model is strangely appreciated when celebs start showing up at his exhibition. i'm pretty sure jamie oliver wouldn't appreciate a tag on his frontdoor...
posted by mailhans at 5:12 AM on March 24, 2005


Nice stunt. He even lists them on his current exhibitions page. Thanks for the post, NinjaPirate; I love Banksy's designs.

Hey, fire&wings, while flashboy took a steaming dump in the thread, your post was fascinating:

So, let this be a lesson to all you arrogant 'media-type' fassyholes ( black, white, or green ) who periodically drop into Jamaica from time to time with your giant superiority complexes and your boring little ideas: us third world niggers have computers and cameras now ; so you'd be well advised to ACT like a guest when you come here to drink out of coconuts or you may just find yourself treated like so many Jamaicans who visit your country----like a sneaky little CRIMINAL!

That's quite a little revenge story from Afflicted Yard, although we only have the photographer's word about how Banksy "swanned around Jamaica as if he owned the place.". Still, it added cool info, which is always better than pure snark. Trumpeting a refusal to deal with Nike while doing ads for Puma *does* seem ridiculous.

I love the guy's art, though. Take it for the freely given risky smartness it is without turning him into some kind of hero, and that should be enough.
posted by mediareport at 5:12 AM on March 24, 2005


Yeah, Banksy is very over-exposed, and I'm sure that doesn't help. I'd like to say that it's not Banksy himself, but the people who use his stuff as an absolute marker of cool that I have a problem with - but unfortunately, everything I've heard or read from Banksy himself makes him seem like the worst sort of self-aggrandising twat.

He often seems to adopt that infuriating hipster get-out clause; promoting their work as being important, meaningful, a statement, until somebody actually questions or criticises them about what that statement is, at which point they just shrug, or claim that it's all a laugh and you clearly don't get the joke, or say something like "well, what does anything mean?".

Banksy repeatedly questions, why something can't be art just because it's sprayed on a wall? It's the message, not the medium. Yet as soon as somebody tries to engage with it as art, up comes the barrier - but it was sprayed on a fucking wall! Don't you see?

I instinctively feel I should like Banksy - public, guerilla art is naturally fun, after all - but his stuff is so empty, so frequently repeating the same tired old military/classical/cartoon juxtapositions, still making the same trivial non-points that occur to most thinking people ten times a day, so desperate for the veneer of cool that being counter-cultural provides... it's just dull.

I did quite like the Tesco Value Soup can piece, but that's mostly because it was funny seeing a b3ta meme stuck up on the wall of a museum.
posted by flashboy at 5:20 AM on March 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


See, flashboy, now *that's* a post. Thanks for taking time to lay out an interesting argument, and well-said about the hipster get-out clause. I'm going to start using that. :)
posted by mediareport at 5:42 AM on March 24, 2005


The hipster get-out clause is, of course, only infuriating when someone else uses it. When I use it, it's because I am, actually, extremely cool.
posted by flashboy at 5:48 AM on March 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


Banksy's work is creative and has certainly challenged many of the pre-conceptions about graph work as art. Personally, I think there are more aesthetically pleasing and diverse pieces on the streets of the world including (but no where near limited to):

The great ceramic space invasion by Space Invaders.

Smiley faces and places from the London Police [google image search].

Cut out masterpieces from Swoon [google image search].

Not that I think its art....

/hipster get out clause
posted by davehat at 5:54 AM on March 24, 2005


flashboy, I wrote a whole big response to you just now (along the lines of "Yell at the big corporations and the Britney Spearses, not the counter-culture artists who don't suit your taste", but longer, for whatever reason). Thanks for your clearer post, I can see more clearly where you're coming from.

But I would like to add: I think high-profile counter-cultural activity that gets hyped and celebrated just like the horrendous crap has a CHANCE of affecting non-"thinking" people like almost nothing else. I think there's a lot that can go wrong with an infiltration of the hype-apathy system, but if the artist can maintain a plausible public image in the face of a media onslaught trying to force him/her into a mold, their work can stand the bullshit detectors of people who might need it. After all, there's a new crop of second-graders every year, and what's trite to us is Fresh and New to so many...
posted by sninky-chan at 5:54 AM on March 24, 2005


graph graff

/any notion of having been hip anyway
posted by davehat at 6:09 AM on March 24, 2005


(previously in the blue)
posted by shoepal at 6:11 AM on March 24, 2005


yeah, Banksy is so totally over, it's untrue.

I mean when I first saw his stuff I really liked it, but that was ages ago and now everyone likes his stuff I've moved on to liking other much better things.
posted by johnny novak at 6:17 AM on March 24, 2005


Glad you linked that, shoepal.

We're waiting, Mr Ashcroft.
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:25 AM on March 24, 2005


In a similar vein, the Space Hijackers are also good fun, although they're more about organising events and, er, "happenings" than graffiti. Their Circle Line Parties are legendary. Obviously, their anti-capitalist stance doesn't always tie in terribly strongly with their desire to have a party wherever possible (reclaiming public space isn't necessarily an anti-capitalist activity, it's just anti-authoritarian), but I think the HGOC is always more tolerable when done in the name of fun rather than in the name of cool...

sninky-chin, you're right, of course - I'm sure Banksy's stuff does hit home for plenty of people (especially people seeing it for the first time) and that's probably a Good Thing. I'll happily admit that he annoys me disproportionately more then he should - I just wish he was doing something cleverer, more thought-provoking with his high profile. (Also, the phrase "hype-apathy system" is an excellent one.)
posted by flashboy at 6:37 AM on March 24, 2005


*chokes on dust left by movers-on passing in the jaded lane*

I'd just like to point out the strange and beautiful "manifesto" at Banksy's site, a wrenching bit of history concerning of concentration camp survivors and lipstick. Oh, and brilliant comment, sninky-chan.
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on March 24, 2005


Being anti-Banksy might have something to do with living in the UK

Not sure of that, I'm in the UK.

I'll thank you for your response, too, flashboy; but I don't buy it to the degree others have. There is a time and a place to talk about art -- but the last person I want involved in that discussion is the artist himself/herself -- which is to me much more tedious than an artist finding a style and sticking to it. Views on the artist are of miniscule importance compared to the art itself so to me your emphasis is misplaced.

repeating the same tired old military/classical/cartoon juxtapositions...

Yeah, and Stubb's tired old horse paintings and Constable's boring landscapes, right? I for one find many of Banksy's observations witty and/or poignant, and certainly more essential than ever, times as they are. That said, I've heard very little from the artist, and I'm certainly one for switching off when I think the person behind a thing is a complete twat.
posted by nthdegx at 6:43 AM on March 24, 2005


The real anti-establishment act would be to take the remaining works from their museum locations. If caught by the guards, you could claim, legitimately, that what you took was not museum property. You really should make sure you get caught.
posted by tippiedog at 7:16 AM on March 24, 2005


Banksy's art is great because his eye for positioning and choice of subject work fairly well. I sincerely hope that he doesn't believe he's any sort of political activist, because I've never seen anything that would make me do much more than think "ooh, that's clever" or chuckle.

Look at it this way: graffiti-style (and stencil) art are reasonably popular now. I can go to the art section of the bookstore and buy books full of pictures of street art or pick up any magazine and see it used to promote anything from cars to shoes to soft drinks. If he wants to be discriminating about who he works for, fine. That's reasonable given that some companies have different production and trade practices than others. I'm not going to believe anyone claiming that Banksy is "revolutionary" unless they're talking about the lengths to which he's able to self-promote. The idea of Banksy is probably worth as much as his art.

Anyway, it's not good because it's rude, it's good because it looks like it's good because it's rude.
posted by mikeh at 7:17 AM on March 24, 2005


His art looks pretty good to me. So what if he repeats himself? Pretty much every artist does. Overexposed? Feel lucky you live in a country where an artist can be considered "overexposed." (Here in the US, we get Ashlee Simpson. Trade ya.)

I like the cow art, BTW. Reminds me of those plaster cows we had all over New York a few years ago, only he upped the ante.
posted by fungible at 7:50 AM on March 24, 2005


I wonder what the Maryhill Anti-Grafitti Network (Flickr self-link) would make of all this?
posted by jack_mo at 7:52 AM on March 24, 2005


It's not funny because it's a pig, it's funny because it looks like it's funny because it's a pig.


Yeah, the pig was funny, I admit it.
posted by flashboy at 7:56 AM on March 24, 2005


I'm surprised someone doesn't run over and snag it off the wall. It doesn't belong to the museum, if they stop you what can they say?
posted by stbalbach at 8:07 AM on March 24, 2005


apparently tom green did this way back, and he stood by his artwork asking people what they thought of it and he made changes to it based on the feedback until he got kicked out.
posted by GleepGlop at 8:41 AM on March 24, 2005


My aunt works at the Museum of Natural History. Maybe she can plea with them not to immediately destroy that cool beetle. (and give it to me!)
posted by Down10 at 8:54 AM on March 24, 2005


Banksy was counterculture, guerrila and "all about the street," until galleries started courting him and selling limited edition prints. It's not the sell out factor that is a turn off - it's the overexposure of what were some quite thought provoking images which had been released into the public domain for the public to enjoy in situ. Or at least that was my interpretation of it. Maybe he thought it was the best way to whore his portfolio to potential agents. His message is so thin that it's the placement of the graffiti that gives impact. They would jump out at you as you turned a corner or looked down at the pavement but are now all over the mainstream media, internet and commercial art galleries and are boring.

Framed on a wall they look like stale knock offs of 80's punk fanzines or CND leaflets, nothing new. His innovation was the interaction between the graffiti and the public space. And that is old news now because stencilling is on a lot of signs, in every street in every UK town. It's probably why he has started travelling to Jamaica and the USA. Bit like when Ali G didn't work here anymore because everyone knew it was a windup.
posted by fire&wings at 9:17 AM on March 24, 2005


j novak: better things... like...?
posted by uni verse at 10:00 AM on March 24, 2005


f&w makes a really valid point. I had the opportunity to buy a framed Banksy "original" a few years back but didn't, because, well, it just didn't look right out of context.
posted by shoepal at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2005


I'd never heard of Banksy before. I liked the museum pieces and some of the works on his site. I appreciate the sentiment, and acknowledge the artform.

What bothers me is stuff like this, where he paints over other works. That seems a bit presumptuous. It's okay in my mind to "re-appropriate" public spaces, and even advertisements, if you can make something beautiful or poignant out of them. Just to deface something that was already someone else's work, though, and say that that defacement was your contribution diminishes the art medium, which should theoretically be distinguishable from vandalism. Maybe I just don't get it, but that one pissed me off.
posted by Hildago at 10:21 AM on March 24, 2005


I agree, hidago, it shows a lack of effort on his part (should have made his own sculpture) and a lack of respect, important for any artist. Which makes the lady liberty more impressive.
posted by uni verse at 10:35 AM on March 24, 2005


Rumor has it, Banksy painted this across the street from Windsor Castle. Pretty soon the whole area where he had "authorized" graffiti was covered.

The rising prevalence of graffiti stencils as public meme broadcasting device is the graffiti version of talking points. If you agree with the sentiment presented, you are more likely to describe it as provocative or interesting. If not, you are more likely to describe it as trite and simplistic, etc.

The Space invader mosaics are awesome, I've found 4 or 5 in LA, in the weirdest places...

If pop graffiti is what your heart desires, try the Buffmonster!
posted by schyler523 at 10:57 AM on March 24, 2005


In the realm of political graffiti, this guy has been discussed on metafilter before in context with Banksy. There are some pretty incredible stories behind some of his pieces. I suppose this one especially might bring a smile to some faces around here.
posted by schyler523 at 11:15 AM on March 24, 2005


I fourth that beetle. Thx.
posted by kahboom at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2005


Being anti-Banksy might have something to do with...

...lazy hipsterism.
...tall poppy syndrome.
...jealousy.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:34 AM on March 25, 2005


I knew I'd seen that Tesco Value Soup Can piece somewhere before... :) (via qwghlm)
posted by flashboy at 2:30 AM on March 25, 2005


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