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Banksy does New Orleans
August 31, 2008 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf, London street artist Banksy travels to New Orleans to put up some commemorative pieces, saying the city's levee wall offered "the best painting surface in the state of Louisiana." Some of the pieces are statements on the clean up effort, and some are protests against Fred Radtke, New Orleans' Grey Ghost, who has been described as a street artist and an anti-street art crusader.

Like him or hate him, expect more of the same from Bansky: propaganda, magical realism, cartoon rats, a lot of technical finesse and a complete lack of subtlety. See the pictures on his site with irreverent/poignant commentary and then go to the flickr pool to see it from a few local perspectives.
posted by elr (74 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hopefully the storm will wipe all of his "art" away.
posted by Zambrano at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2008


I "get" Banksy, but I can't fucking stand him.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:10 AM on August 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


I don't wanna be That Guy, but it does seem to me the subject of the FPP should maybe have his name spelled right in the FPP.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2008


I much prefer to see Banksy up than the work of the Grey Ghost, Zambrano. I see that Grey Ghost as a determined attempt to remove any sort of budding communal culture. What would he make of the massive murals in Lyon's 8eme arrondissement? Half of them are part of an outdoor museum, but there are many that are extensions of that outdoor museum, but which are basically graffiti (the Asian culture mural springs to mind). Bad graffiti is just vandalism; good graffiti really enriches the area it's in. Banksy is good graffiti, even though it might not be particularly good art.

Banksy relies on cliches often, and he simply isn't the greatest artist. He isn't even the only one doing this stuff, but his technique is usually well above that of his predecessors and imitators, so it's art. It's just not great art.

Also, I hope the only damage the storm does is wash away paint. You're sort of making light of what could be an awful, awful event.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


baaah, banksy rocks. Realistic Bart here is one of my faves.
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2008


Fuck, I was calling him Bansky for years before I realized it was Banksy. I was hoping not to do that here. Oh well. At least I got it right in the title.

By the by, I know a lot of people hate the guy for a lot of different reasons, but I don't usually go into posts about things I hate (say The Chicago Cubs, cucumbers, or George W Bush) just to announce my distaste for the subject. Why do so many here?
posted by elr at 11:23 AM on August 31, 2008


I was dubious (and am not a Banksy fan), but I feel like he "got" NOLA (in his way) and did a good job of providing interesting images and opinions in the work he chose to do.

I also get Radtke's deal, but I think he goes too far. He scratches out legitimate community art along with claim tags because he doesn't actually understand graffiti, only that he is enraged by its presence.
posted by batmonkey at 11:29 AM on August 31, 2008


Please, could someone clarify for me why I should "hate" Banksy. The work I've seen looks fine (even beautiful) and it's generally very much in context and effective; so much so that he's got us talking about it, all over the world.
posted by philip-random at 11:32 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Radtke is clearly a racist twat. Banksy gets a lot of flack now that's he's popular, as everyone wants to have known him before he was cool.
posted by phrontist at 11:39 AM on August 31, 2008


I've been a street art / graffiti "head" since my teens. And I rate Banksy absolutely. Am so bored of the hating on this guy. It's good graf, it's even better art.
posted by theCroft at 11:40 AM on August 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


> Hopefully the storm will wipe all of his "art" away.

It's okay, guys, you don't have to get angry. There is still plenty of plain grey wall to look at and admire if that is what you prefer. I promise for every one of these there's still plenty of this for you -- just as for every one of these there is still plenty of this -- so don't get all fired up yet.

When muralists and graffiti writers have covered up all of your plain grey wall, well, then you can make your case that you've got no plain grey wall left to look at. We can put a resolution on the ballot. Zone out a little wall, somewhere in the outskirts of town, where you are free to not express yourself.
posted by churl at 11:42 AM on August 31, 2008 [33 favorites]


Thanks for the post! I've collected "street type art" for quite some time, and am a huge fan of graffiti. The marching processional over the gray paint is, in my opinion, both beautiful and poignant, and I second flibbertigibbets remarks on both the artist and the impending storm ahead. Spot on!
posted by HappyHippo at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2008


I didn't know that buffing graf had seriously taken on an art form...you've got to be kidding me that this guy. The Grey Ghost, is considered an 'artist'. That iron rail link is so over the top bullshit, I had to read it twice to make sure the author was serious. post-Rothko? How about just straight-up, unmeasured hate for pretty much anything. That's considered creative art now?
posted by oliver_crunk at 11:46 AM on August 31, 2008


I've always loved Banksy because he integrates his graffiti so well with its environment and it's actually artistic. It's not a bunch of random crap sprayed on a wall.

Having lived in Southern California most of my life, I'd love to see this kind of thing locally. Instead we get 16 year olds tagging overpasses with their initials 38 times in a 70 foot stretch.

Bring on the sociopolitical graffiti with some thought behind it, I welcome it.
posted by mikesch at 11:52 AM on August 31, 2008


Once, someone had 'tagged' the Target where I worked. This was hilarious for 2 reasons 1) This target was in Salina KS, population 50K and 2) The "artist" covered the entire wall. Just a kid trying to be a "thug" by tagging the local Target as a part of his turf.

It was up for a day before the kid fessed up, with his mom by his side. The wall was painted up, and aside from some off-hue paint, one couldn't tell that the target hadn't been vandalized.

Also, the washed out peace sign that's still almost visible on my old elementary school. It's visible by the faint outline left by the cleaning process, which might be a metaphor for something.

Graffiti, in the right spot, does wonders.
posted by hellojed at 11:56 AM on August 31, 2008


That's considered creative art now?

Yeah it's kind of unoriginal, Rauschenberg did it first.
posted by bradbane at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2008


Pedantic, I know, but Banksy is from Bristol, not London.
posted by HaloMan at 12:11 PM on August 31, 2008


Radtke is clearly a racist twat.

Why?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:20 PM on August 31, 2008


Please, could someone clarify for me why I should "hate" Banksy.

Because it is hip to do so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on August 31, 2008


Cool stuff. Just wait until Banksy encounters the Cabbagetown graffiti vigilante.
posted by Frank Grimes at 12:41 PM on August 31, 2008


Bleuch. I'm kind of ambivalent about Banksy, but this Radtke guy sounds like a complete tool (or at least, that ironrail link makes him sound so), and I'd hate for him to be operating around my city.
posted by Drexen at 12:46 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything about this stuff, so was that Iron Rail article about the Grey Ghost supposed to be facetious?
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 12:50 PM on August 31, 2008


I know he was outed recently in the British press as a public schoolboy and not some street cred radical, but even so, some artists I know insist he doesn't exist and that Banksy is actually an artists collective.
posted by A189Nut at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2008


I love them. Full stop.

I know he was outed recently in the British press as a public schoolboy and not some street cred radical

Can we get over this British thing that being middle-class immediately delegitimizes any form of social criticism through art?
posted by jokeefe at 1:36 PM on August 31, 2008 [16 favorites]


I suspect one of the issues is the fact that Banksy pulls in money for his work. A lot of money. Some people like our artists to be starving in garrets.
posted by panboi at 1:39 PM on August 31, 2008


I really love the Flickr pool of Banksy's work. Thanks for posting this!

If nothing else, Banksy is a "good" artist in that love him or hate him, his work produces a gut reaction. There's a lot of art that I don't like that I would still consider "good" art because it produces such a strong and visceral dislike. "Bad" art, to me, is art that merely induces apathy. If you don't have any reaction to it at all, the artist has failed to connect with you in any meaningful way. Art should elicit a response from the viewer, or else it's merely visual noise.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:43 PM on August 31, 2008


The image of the kid flying the refrigerator is wonderful.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:53 PM on August 31, 2008


panboi: nice link, but doesn't actually demonstrate what these pieces are going for, or, for that matter, how much of it gets to the artist. Do you have further info on that?
posted by kaibutsu at 1:55 PM on August 31, 2008


Personally, I'm very glad that Banksy exists. I think some of the stuff isn't so great, but other stuff he does is actually thought provoking and well done. He himself calls it "bad art" though, so it's not like he thinks he's Michelangelo. He's far more talented and insightful than I think he gets credit for due to his commercial success, though. It's not cool to like him. (And my theory is, it's become so not cool to like him that it makes me cool to say I like him. Hah!) Anyhow, he's taken a lot of risks, if not artistically than definitel logistically. And sometimes he makes me laugh. I'm glad he's out there doing what he does. Takes more courage to even make mediocre creative works than it does to sit back and criticize someone else's artistic efforts while never lifting a finger to create anything yourself, I say.

90% of critics don't have the courage to do instead of critique, and if the roles were reversed and they were the artists, would probably pan themselves to death. So I give people credit for making effort. Art ain't ever easy, my friends.

And that Grey Ghost guy? I didn't read all of the articles but I'm not sure what the big deal is on that guy. The guy at the liquor store a few blocks away does the same thing to graffiti on his block... people aren't up in arms about that though, since it was mostly poorly executed walk-by tagging that was worse to look at than blotches of paint are.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:07 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


nice link, but doesn't actually demonstrate what these pieces are going for, or, for that matter, how much of it gets to the artist. Do you have further info on that?

Click on the images and it will pull up a price guide. It was just a quick pull from Google by way of illustration.

I don't know what percentage Banksy gets after the gallery/agent though. I'm prepared to be enlightened/shocked if he's not pulling in the biggest slice of the cake though.
posted by panboi at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2008


So this Radtke tool takes graffiti of varying quality and replaces it with uniformly shitty graffiti. A net loss to the aesthetics of New Orleans. He also crusades against basic safety. Apparently the city has been lax about replacing street signs in many areas even to this day, leading a guy to put up hand-painted signs on phone poles, which get grayed out.

He's also batshit:

"Phat, R.I.P. 11-21-00, We’ll always love you nigga!" ... "Phat is probably the name of the guy and that’s the day he died." He shakes his head. "Whoever did this graffiti owns this block. This is what you call max-out intimidation."


NOLA gov't also batshit, not like this was news:

This issue is so important to Radtke that he worked to create legislation penalizing property owners who don’t take graffiti seriously. "If they don’t take the graffiti off in 30 days, they pay $500," he says. "We did that two years ago." He’s referring to an anti-graffiti ordinance passed by the New Orleans City Council; Radtke was, confirm City Hall insiders, instrumental in making that happen.


Seriously, leave that HOA bullshit for the culs-de-sac sprawl.

Actually, it seems from various quotes and comments that he really is mentally unhinged, but instead of keeping him in check the city government supports him.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2008


I will always love him for this.
(And the image of the little girl getting rained on by her umbrella? Choked me up a little bit.)
posted by jnaps at 2:39 PM on August 31, 2008


Banksy's book is great, highly recommend.
posted by jcruelty at 2:49 PM on August 31, 2008


(the iron rail link is satire. I love them)

I aborted a blog a few years back after just a couple posts, where I critiqued whitewashes and buffs in Chicago with a bunch of art jargon I only sometimes understood. I still like the idea of the negative space created by covering up street art becoming an art form of itself .

But yeah, this Radtke guy seems... unpleasant.
posted by elr at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2008


A lot of those New Orleans stencils are low grade compared to his usual work, and all of them are a cheap predictable riff on the far superior Israel/Palestine work he churned out. Still like them, but they were a bit disappointing for me. However! The Alabama piece (if it's his) is exactly why he deserves to be making millions. So much win in such a simple concept.

>"Pedantic, I know, but Banksy is from Bristol, not London."

This is actual an important piece of information to note down - Bristol is, has been and will be the home ground for a big chunk of the world's prominent street artists for years. Overlooking it in favour of London just makes me sad.
posted by saturnine at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2008


Never heard of that Radtke guy before but I'm pretty sure he sucks. What kind of artist paints over someone else's shit, someone tried to "enhance" a painting of mine once by painting over parts of it, I could've jump kicked her in the face.

Banksy seems like a cool dude (not sure if he's actually one guy though). I thought the one of the kid painting flowers and that guy covering them up w/ grey was pretty clever, shows how much of a prick that Radtke guy is. I think the next step for Radtke is going to an elementary school and painting grey on the fingerpaintings.
posted by BrnP84 at 3:39 PM on August 31, 2008


Well, there is this Erased De Koonig.... So, there is a precedence.
posted by Eekacat at 3:45 PM on August 31, 2008


You know who else had his paintings defaced?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:39 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, there is this Erased De Koonig.... So, there is a precedence.

Which was done with permission, as a deliberate work of art. Without this context Radtke's paint becomes merely buffing.

I have a good idea. Find a wall that isn't light-colored (like a large dark-ish brick wall), and paint shitty graffiti using a black spray can ---- but in the shape of a really large smiley face. Wait for Radtke to come and paint it out, effectively forcing Radtke to do graffiti and to reinforce the smiley face.

Or: buff Radtke's buffs.
posted by suedehead at 4:53 PM on August 31, 2008


lipstick on a pig.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:10 PM on August 31, 2008


Permission makes it art? No, in the case of the De Kooning, it makes it collective art. Rauschenberg certainly didn't need permission to make what he did art.



Or: buff Radtke's buffs.

You mean something like this. Which you would have seen if you actually looked at the links.

You know, all this bullshit about the right for graffiti artists to do their thing and make their statement, but doesn't that also equally apply to Radtke?
posted by Eekacat at 5:58 PM on August 31, 2008


I "get" Banksy, but I can't fucking stand him.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:10 PM on August 31


banksy is the conscious of his generation, and probably mine - I am sincerely sorry you can't see it.
posted by plexi at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2008


I know he was outed recently in the British press as a public schoolboy and not some street cred radical
Can we get over this British thing that being middle-class immediately delegitimizes any form of social criticism through art?
posted by jokeefe at 1:36 PM on August 31
Pardon me, you seem to have your foot in your mouth: The term public school has two distinct (and virtually opposite) meanings depending on the location of usage. Public Schools in Britian are primarily for the children of the top of the class pyramid.

I can't believe 5 people favorited this shit — you entirely misunderstand what you're responding to, and on top of that get the implications exactly backwards.
posted by blasdelf at 6:14 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I "get" Banksy, but I can't fucking stand him.

Again, I must respectfully ask. What is it that you can't stand about him?
posted by philip-random at 6:20 PM on August 31, 2008


Well, blasdelf, allow me then to generalize jokeefe's statement:

Can we get over this thing where hailing from any particular class immediately delegitimizes any form of social criticism through art?

Aside from questions of his origins, would you mind explaining what you think people are 'misunderstanding' and getting backwards here instead of just insulting people? Do try to be constructive in your criticism. Otherwise you sound like just another asshole on the internet.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:35 PM on August 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Aside from that, jokeefe's comment makes perfect sense if you interpret "middle class" as "not working class", which is the most logical interpretation of what was written.

If English public schools are anything like their Australian counterparts (what we call private schools) the students are far more likely to be the kids of professionals, middle management & businessmen than any kind of old money, so yeh, overwhelmingly middle class.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't believe 5 people favorited this shit — you entirely misunderstand what you're responding to, and on top of that get the implications exactly backwards.

I was one of those who favorited that shit and yea I didn't know the whole "public" school difference thing but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The point of the comment was people hating on someone for their social standing, the point of your comment was to show off your knowledge of the English education system and act like an intellectual snob.
posted by BrnP84 at 7:00 PM on August 31, 2008


I just took photographs of the piece that showed up in Birmingham, AL this weekend. This of course has nothing to do with New Orleans, and it could be a faux Banksy for all I know. I'm hoping if it is his piece, that he does a few more in and around Birmingham. My girlfriend and I enjoyed going on a treasure hunt today.
posted by robtf3 at 7:07 PM on August 31, 2008


You know, all this bullshit about the right for graffiti artists to do their thing and make their statement, but doesn't that also equally apply to Radtke?

Even assuming "graffiti artists' rights" he's still a shitty graffiti artist who's being an asshole. And completely obscuring traffic safety signs because someone tagged them is definitely ain't right.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:10 PM on August 31, 2008


I was one of those who favorited that shit and yea I didn't know the whole "public" school difference thing but it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

The thing is, it does fucking matter. The prototypical public school boy is the child of landed gentry, political dynasties, captains of industry. They may stand to inherit a peerage when their old man croaks. Wealth is different from Class — the 11th Earl of Humperdink may be poor, but he will never be anything but upper-upper-class.

If you may inherit a royal title, that is the polar opposite of being a "street cred radical".

In the US the closest equivalents I can think of are places like Andover and Exeter.
posted by blasdelf at 8:44 PM on August 31, 2008


You're really not getting it blasdeff. It matters not one whit which "class" Bansky is from. If he really is from this upper class you posit, then ( in some ways) his message perhaps becomes even more relevant. T

hese social boxes you construct are being torn asunder, and apparently in this case, from within. The idea that only the poor have social consciences is patently absurd. While I abhor graffiti, I do admire Banksy.

He makes me smile, and and think.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:14 PM on August 31, 2008


blasdelf: prototypical or stereotypical?

Eton & Harrow might be largely landed gentry etc (maybe, I don't know, but that's the vibe you get) but they're surely not the only ones, and there can't be that many young nobles. Hell, in Sydney alone there must be sixty or more quite poncy "public" schools, and that's not counting all the Catholic schools.

Considering that we copied that aspect of our education system directly from England, I can't see why they wouldn't have hundreds of public schools full of dentists' and engineers' kids, with the parents often making heaps of sacrifices to be able to afford the fees.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:22 PM on August 31, 2008


blasdef: You seem to not know wtf you're on about.

Neither 'public school', nor 'middle class' mean same in the UK as they do in Seattle - no matter how much Monty Python you've watched, and the reality of things may not map so well to the 'prototypical'. So that's all all lovely, but EVEN IF they did, jokeefe's comment is still entirely valid. In fact, the very point of it is to dismiss the relevance of your peculiar concerns about class to the quality of the art and/or comment involved.

It's not that hard.
posted by pompomtom at 9:26 PM on August 31, 2008


The Sex Pistols' early audience were apparently mostly middle-class artschool types. Just sayin'.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:46 PM on August 31, 2008


IF feels relevant all of a sudden.
posted by philip-random at 10:00 PM on August 31, 2008


UbuRovias: you're right, I should have said stereotypical.

I'll spell this out again:

The point of A189Nut's original comment "I know he was outed recently in the British press as a public schoolboy and not some street cred radical" is that if your high-status parents paid $55,000 a year for you to go to Eton, you're not remotely 'from the streets', and if you are doing graffiti you are 'slumming it'.

jokeefe's comment Can we get over this British thing that being middle-class immediately delegitimizes any form of social criticism through art? has many ambiguous interpretations:I read it as the first one (which makes no sense in the context of A189Nut's comment), but she could have meant either of the middle two.

The problem is that "middle-class" is incredibly ambiguous, as it is used by people both aspirationally (I ain't lower-class) and dismissively (I couldn't possibly be upper-class). Her wording is far too specific for the generic interpretation.
posted by blasdelf at 10:33 PM on August 31, 2008


It seems the rest of us read it as the second option, blasdelf.

However, the idea of "class" as something unconnected to actual wealth or income does seem a peculiarly British concept. The idea that you are born as class X and carry that through your life, no matter what decisions you make, nor what ideology you hold dear, seems pretty fucking ridiculous.

I would also like some clarification on the issue of "Public Schools" in England. As UbuRovias points out, I'm used to there being four tiers of schools, in Australia.

Public schools (ie. government funded schools)
Catholic schools (privately funded, but generally affordable)
Independent schools (privately funded, often Christian, more expensive)
Posh schools (privately funded, very expensive, where the rich kids go)

Your interpretation of the school system in Britain seems to be missing some of those middle options; what do you call a school that isn't government-funded, but isn't Eton?
posted by Jimbob at 11:07 PM on August 31, 2008


The second option doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either, the idea that "social criticism through art should come from the lower classes" seems distinctly American to me. The first option would make some sense to me (though it's directly contradictory to context), and the third option the most.

It appears that Independent School is the preferred nomenclature, covering the last three schooling options you present. There's a more generic article that presents comparisons with the American and Australian (you seem to be the ones awake at 6:00 UTC) terminology.
posted by blasdelf at 11:32 PM on August 31, 2008


Again, as an American, I have no problem with people from any tier of society offering social criticism. What is your problem with the work itself, beyond the identity of the creator?

To be sure, I don't think Banksy has misrepresented himself at all; so far as I know, he's striven for anonymity, rather than make any claims at being from the streets or anything like this. His images are whimsical and smart and poke satire at this crumbling, consumerist, paranoid, wasteful, over-developed world we've come to inhabit. The work stands on its own; Banksy the person has no need to be a part of it.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:40 AM on September 1, 2008


Pardon me, you seem to have your foot in your mouth: The term public school has two distinct (and virtually opposite) meanings depending on the location of usage. Public Schools in Britian are primarily for the children of the top of the class pyramid.

You're embarrassing yourself with your North American parochialism.
"Middle Class" in England is equivalent to "Upper middle class" in the United States.
posted by atrazine at 3:46 AM on September 1, 2008


And here is a quote directly from the slightly trashy centre-right horse's mouth,

And far from being a radical tearaway from an inner-city council estate, the man we have identified as Banksy is, perhaps all too predictably, a former public schoolboy brought up in middle-class suburbia.

The problem is that "middle-class" is incredibly ambiguous, as it is used by people both aspirationally (I ain't lower-class) and dismissively (I couldn't possibly be upper-class). Her wording is far too specific for the generic interpretation

fyi, to anyone with even a passing familiarity with England, jokeefe's comment is totally unambiguous.
posted by atrazine at 3:50 AM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


From atrazine's link, the theory is that he went to Bristol Cathedral School, one of 880 Independent Coed/Mixed Schools listed by this mob. And not even close to the top of that list, either. Probably quite far from your landed gentry, I would guess.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:18 AM on September 1, 2008


Can we get over this British thing that being middle-class immediately delegitimizes any form of social criticism through art?

No.
posted by fullerine at 4:48 AM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you know who else belonged to the landed gentry, had street cred and was a radical.
posted by ersatz at 4:50 AM on September 1, 2008


Suck my balls you bloody wanker and stop judging us Americans on what we choose to favorite.

That's a bit uncalled for. After all, the favourites were from a Kiwi, two Aussies*, three unknowns, three septic tanks, and one not-hermitosis-ist.

* though i have my doubts about pompomtom
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 AM on September 1, 2008


You can admire Banksy's stuff and still want the tedious, talentless taggers (pretty much all of them) to stop. If it's just a scrawl, don't touch the wall.
posted by pracowity at 5:06 AM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


A man's ambition must indeed be small
To write his name upon a shithouse wall
But before I die I'll add my regal scrawl
To show the world I'm left with sweet fuck all
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:13 AM on September 1, 2008


I'd say Banksy was essentially a cartoonist, in that he uses the art as a means to deliver the message or the content, rather than the art itself being the point. Nothing wrong with that, and I like a lot of it (I certainly agree it's far preferable to tagging). But I also understand why people find him irritating. He seems so pleased with himself he hardly needs me to like his stuff as well. His things are presented with a sort of implicit fanfare which suggests these are really searing/incisive/witty images, but quite a few are really only mildly amusing and others are directed at soft or predictable targets.

This quality of being a bit more pleased with himself than his talent really authorises would certainly be pretty typical of a British public schoolboy (and God, I know, I'm one). It also fits the profile that his stuff is less original than it seems, a sort of downmarket version of the earlier work of people like Blek le Rat

On the pro side, he does seem fairly good about only painting on grim concrete or other suitable surfaces - I hate it when people paint on decent brickwork.
posted by Phanx at 6:23 AM on September 1, 2008


if your high-status parents paid $55,000 a year for you to go to Eton, you're not remotely 'from the streets', and if you are doing graffiti you are 'slumming it'.

His art isn't even in the same genre as street graffiti - it doesn't use the same images, styles or colours. It is in a genre with Blek le Rat's work, and to some extent with other leftist social protest art (which is classically the purvey of the upper classes). So how is he slumming it? Street graffiti is its own thing, originating in the American black urban community with its own distinctive styles, motifs and colours, but increasingly being done all over the world by people of different races and nationalities. But Banksy's work is not in this genre at all - the only thing they share is a location and certain illicitness.

But I like anyone, of any class, who makes street art which is more than just a tag, which creates an image - attractive or intriguing or both. Banksy's art is both attractive and interesting. I especially like how he sometimes plays with the shape of the wall/bridge/whatever itself. It's muralling - muralling is good, and we need more of it. There are enough blank walls, or walls covered with advertising -- advertising is the far worse graffeti.
posted by jb at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


propaganda, magical realism, cartoon rats, a lot of technical finesse and a complete lack of subtlety

That is the best description of Banksy I have ever read. Especially the magical realism angle, which I never applied to anything in my mind beside, you know, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the like. Awesome.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:21 AM on September 1, 2008


*catches up*

For what it's worth, I was born in Canada to my newly emigrant parents, and was brought up to be, essentially, a nice middle-class English girl.

Thanks to the people who helped to clarify and defend my post.
posted by jokeefe at 9:58 AM on September 1, 2008


And all apologies for misreading it so harshly.
posted by blasdelf at 12:08 AM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cheers, blasdelf. Buy you a pint sometime?
posted by jokeefe at 10:05 AM on September 2, 2008


In Bristol I have known and worked with many working class people (carpet fitters, secretaries) that have sent their children to private school. I come from the barely-working classes and had many opportunities in that direction, including being offered a place in this school.

How? Scholarships. Saving money. It is by no means a reflection or definition of your politics, way of thinking or family background to go to private school in this city.

> "His art isn't even in the same genre as street graffiti - it doesn't use the same images, styles or colours. It is in a genre with Blek le Rat's work, and to some extent with other leftist social protest art (which is classically the purvey of the upper classes). So how is he slumming it? Street graffiti is its own thing, originating in the American black urban community with its own distinctive styles, motifs and colours, but increasingly being done all over the world by people of different races and nationalities. But Banksy's work is not in this genre at all - the only thing they share is a location and certain illicitness."

I get what you're trying to say here, but you're wrong, because you don't seem to be aware that Banksy's early street output was freestyled work back in the 80s/early 90s with 3D et al. You want to see some Bristol streets from back in the day? Here you go. All of that was directly imported from New York, and Banksy was one of those guys that worked on it and made graffiti one of the most important parts of this city.

Further to that, his political bent is not unique or original. He encapsulates what a lot of the alternate side to Bristol culture has always embraced. There are a gigantic portion of Bristolians (mostly centred around St Pauls/Montpelier/Stapleton road area) that are very liberal/left leaning, vegan types, communist appreciating, festival loving folk who smoke a lot of pot (et al) and have a good time, and most importantly: question and pull at the capitalist/mainstream world around them. They are the crusties that you'll see protesting on May Day, and the people smoking a massive blunt at the St Paul's Carnival every year. The graffiti culture starts and ends in that area of Bristol, regardless of where you are born or what colour your skin is or what school you go to.

So Banksy tied those two things together, found that Blek le Rat's methods worked well, worked via that for a while until he found his own path... and hit the jackpot.

The only problem now, is that people can't resist talking about him, rather than his work. No wonder he's started leaving his name off everything he does.

> "He seems so pleased with himself he hardly needs me to like his stuff as well. His things are presented with a sort of implicit fanfare which suggests these are really searing/incisive/witty images, but quite a few are really only mildly amusing and others are directed at soft or predictable targets."

You're projecting onto a blank canvas because you're confusing the media hype with an anonymous person who makes very few public statements outside his work. Which probably aren't even written by him, because he's too busy travelling, painting and organising festivals.

*breathes*
*hits post*
posted by saturnine at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


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