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May 16, 2010 8:41 PM   Subscribe

it was street art until the preservation team showed up... banksy drops a piece in a derelict factory site in detroit. a local grass-roots gallery removes it to their hq for safe keeping. people go nuts.
posted by artof.mulata (101 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unrelated to the article: This new trend of sites paginating their articles but preloading all the content and displaying pages without load times is good. I can get behind it. Saves me from scrolling and I can browse everything by clicking to turn pages. Good twist on a usually-irritating design choice.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:48 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I missed the nuts. Seems people are talking about it but I don't see any crazy outrage or anything.
posted by cashman at 8:56 PM on May 16, 2010




I wish the "stewards" thought more before taking the piece. Context is arguably important for any street art, but this piece plain refers to its location.
posted by domnit at 9:01 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think technically they're just thieves.
posted by empath at 9:04 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know it's an old, run-down, falling-apart building and whatnot, but doesn't the guy who owns it get a say in whether you're allowed to spend two days removing part of his old, run-down, falling-apart building and move it to your gallery (for the express purpose of getting people to come to your gallery)?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:06 PM on May 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Thieves versus vandals, lets hope both sides lose.

I flat-out don't get Banksy but I do recognize there's some skill there, more than your average tagger turd.
posted by codswallop at 9:09 PM on May 16, 2010


Good on 555!

Reminds me of the Fabricators of the Attachment at the Seattle Art Detention Center and the Hammering Man's ball and chain.

According to legend, the first cop to respond to the scene of the outrage turned to his partner and said, "It looks like art to me."
posted by warbaby at 9:10 PM on May 16, 2010


Is it just me, or is a lot of contemporary art more about arguing about art rather than actually doing art?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:11 PM on May 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I imagine that if the 555 didn't take it, someone else would have.

I'm happy that they did so i'll be able to see it here in the city instead of on Sotheby's website next week.

Terrible logic, i know, but here that's exactly what would have happened.
posted by phylum sinter at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2010


This is ridiculous. A piece of ephemeral street art in the middle of rubble that provides it's context is lifted and put in an art gallery. Thanks, that seems so necessary.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 9:22 PM on May 16, 2010


@23skidoo - yes, he would if he actually cared. It's been a heap of mostly rubble for 50 some years. It's not exactly highly valued property... at least not until this, perhaps.

Maybe now something might happen with that giant eyesore.
posted by phylum sinter at 9:24 PM on May 16, 2010


"He also noted that the controversy has already become part of its accumulated meaning."

Urgh. I really like what the 555th group do, but man that is a bad way to phrase that. Because causing a controversy is a separate work of art. It's basically two works of art now, original location (OL) and new location (NL). Except the OL piece no longer exists because some vandals destroyed it. The NL piece is probably still awesome but it isn't the same. What will be really neat is when someone steals it back to the old location and uses the same argument. The ONL has the most accumulated meaning after all.
posted by Peztopiary at 9:28 PM on May 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Anyone notice?

Yeah.

'K.
posted by Some1 at 9:29 PM on May 16, 2010


This can only legally be described as one thing: Theft of a wall on which an act of vandalism has been committed.

I love Banksy's stuff - it's everything art should be. It's interesting, relevant, controversial, and it's highly visible. It's accessible. Is it supposed to be permanent? Of course not.

However, I also agree that it's obviously vandalism. It's part of the discomfort that makes his stuff so interesting. Is the act of vandalism more accepted because of the works? Is it more valuable because he's famous? Is it more relevant because it's discussed? When does it cross the line?

There are no right and wrong answers to these questions - only legal ramifications. But when something is in the public realm, and it's not your property, you have no right to take it. As soon as 555 did that, they ruined the piece. Its value is not merely in its appearance. It had a context, both physically and socially, and it wasn't necessarily meant to last forever. It's not up to someone else to fuck with that. It's been rendered meaningless - what they're left with is a very controversial autograph.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:34 PM on May 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: "Is it just me, or is a lot of contemporary art more about arguing about art rather than actually doing art?"

In a way I think yes, but in a way no. The article talks a bit about the location:

The Packard plant, a massive haven for squatters and scrappers — 3.5 million square feet of almost total urban destruction and decay — has been at the center of an epic legal dispute between the City of Detroit and a land speculator dating back more than a decade.

A pretty good symbol for Detroit in general. I think Banksy knew that his celebrity would cause some scrutiny to fall on the location, and 555 Gallery is amplyfing the attention by moving the piece. So applause for everybody involved I guess.

It's a fascinating study in what happens when a graffiti artist becomes a super-celebrity. The guy has the ability to basically walk around and leave million dollar suitcases sitting around, at will. As far as I can tell he's being pretty responsible with that power.
posted by chaff at 9:40 PM on May 16, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to be an idiot to understand?
posted by killdevil at 9:51 PM on May 16, 2010


It's vandalism. Leave it there, where banksy painted it ffs. If he'd have wanted it in your art gallery he would have painted it there for you.
posted by micklaw at 9:59 PM on May 16, 2010


Hell, I give them credit for actually being able to move a cinderblock wall without having it fall apart..
posted by davey_darling at 10:03 PM on May 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jeez- with all these Banksy's going up all over North America in the last two weeks you'd almost thing there was a movie coming out and it was some sort of promotional campaign.
posted by Doug Stewart at 10:28 PM on May 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Think, not thing, naturally.
posted by Doug Stewart at 10:29 PM on May 16, 2010


Banksy's works usually appear in more prominent museums, whether they want them or not.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:35 PM on May 16, 2010


Whatever.
posted by borges at 10:44 PM on May 16, 2010


Whatever, if he's allowed to just paint on anyone's property, then anyone else should be allowed to destroy/change/move it if they want. I can't wait for the day he just does a giant swastika somewhere. Is it still art?!
posted by jacalata at 11:05 PM on May 16, 2010


I like Banksy's response:
http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/images/TABLE/table_bgrd_10_07_USA.jpg
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:06 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


jsnlxndrlv: "I like Banksy's response:
http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/images/TABLE/table_bgrd_10_07_USA.jpg
"

Is that also Detroit?
posted by stbalbach at 11:22 PM on May 16, 2010


Robin Hood Gunningham is amusing and his heart seems in the right place, but his work sure feels like it's 5 percent inspiration, 5 percent perspiration, and 90 percent PR.
posted by pracowity at 12:02 AM on May 17, 2010


If the 555 gallery itself ever gets sprayed, people ought to run over and "conserve" their walls. This was not theirs for the plundering.
posted by emeiji at 12:12 AM on May 17, 2010


Its not so much 'people go nuts' as 'people scratch their beards and pontificate about arty stuff and low level legal points'. Sometimes, a lot of contemporary art seems to be about pretending things are more interesting than they really are.

I like Banksy though, and I think I just got the joke he intended on this piece.
posted by memebake at 12:45 AM on May 17, 2010


Calling Banksy's work vandalism is a bit like somebody leaving a bag of cash on somebody's door step and getting cited for littering.
posted by one_bean at 12:56 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Canadian Cash or Zimbabwe Cash?

And you'd think someone like Banksy could afford to license the space his art appears on.
posted by Mitheral at 1:02 AM on May 17, 2010


I really like Banksy. I resisted for a long time, but he eventually won me over. It was this one that did it specifically, I think.

That said, I can't feel anything about this particular situation other than amusement. The whole thing is frickin' hilarious.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:19 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean, the guy has made graffiti valuable. Like, cash on the barrelhead valuable. It's ridiculous, in the deepest and most profound sense of the word.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:20 AM on May 17, 2010


Last year, something similar happened in London. A wall with a piece of Banksy (the Ikea Punk) has been moved by others, with the explicit aim to sell it. Not only did they relocate the wall, but also wanted to restore it as it was heavily tagged (not the ones in the background of the punk, new ones in front)
posted by Henrik at 1:21 AM on May 17, 2010


He remembers when all that (area, I guess) was trees? The Packard Plant was built in 1906 and that whole stretch along Mt. Elliott has always been very industrial. I used to work just a few blocks from that plant and for some reason we had a file with historic photos of the area.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:25 AM on May 17, 2010


vectr was here
posted by vectr at 1:26 AM on May 17, 2010


The complex is owned by a company called Bioresource Inc., which emerged with the title after a lengthy court battle with the City of Detroit. City officials say the firm has failed to pay Detroit taxes since it bought the plant in 1987. State records show Bioresource has not filed an annual report since 2000 and was declared dissolved by the state in 2003.

Christ.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:34 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


jsnlxndrlv: "I like Banksy's response:
http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/images/TABLE/table_bgrd_10_07_USA.jpg
"

That was in San Francisco. I was amused to read about that doctor, in particular: the owners (apparently) of the shop in question were also attempting to preserve it. It was repeatedly tagged (some of which were clever enough on their own) and they repeatedly tried to clean it up. Something very funny about meticulously removing graffiti from the graffiti. Pictures.
posted by alexei at 3:13 AM on May 17, 2010


My guess is Banksy enjoying the controversy. As a current graffiti artist who also sells work to collectors (and has done since at least 2003) he's well aware of the ebb and flow of his works between the public and the private. It has ever been thus.

You can't be a graffiti artist and not live by the idea that once you've done your bit your work is there to be used or abused.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, as soon as he knows his work is worth something, Banksy is playing with the idea of public/private art whenever he puts his work onto something he doesn't own.

I suspect that he's laughing at people suddenly reclaiming unloved pieces of concrete from unloved areas of an unloved city because he's done this.

IMHO one of the more enjoyable things about Banksy is that despite his fame he still hasn't felt the need to explain/post rationalize what he does and how clever it is in the way so many modern artists do. For all that he's apparently sold out, he's got that going for him.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:54 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


No tag tag?

Whatever, if he's allowed to just paint on anyone's property, then anyone else should be allowed to destroy/change/move it if they want. I can't wait for the day he just does a giant swastika somewhere. Is it still art?!

Does he piss you off so much to indirectly call the guy a nazi? I remember when all this was trees sounds more like a Hindu swastika than a nazi one.
posted by ersatz at 4:21 AM on May 17, 2010




I just can't buy in to the idea that lionizing vandals and legitimizing vandalism like this is a good idea. It's vandalism; it's destruction. Well-drawn graffiti is still graffiti, and I hate it.
posted by Shohn at 5:19 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that was painted on a PACKARD plant. Cars that haven't been made in decades, so no one alive probably remembers when all that was trees. Not poignant just street art for street arts sake.
posted by djduckie at 5:27 AM on May 17, 2010


I don't get Banksy, either. Yeah, his stuff is quite unlike your average tagger output, but his "statements" are, at best, re-re-re-hashed junior-high-school-level philosophy.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:43 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Salvor Hardin: I demand a free haircut!
posted by joecacti at 5:44 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd be impressed if they'd built an art gallery around it.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but that was painted on a PACKARD plant. Cars that haven't been made in decades....

Yeah, they moved to California and make cheap plastic printers now.
posted by miyabo at 6:29 AM on May 17, 2010


> He remembers when all that (area, I guess) was trees? The Packard Plant was built in 1906 and that whole stretch along Mt. Elliott has always been very industrial. I used to work just a few blocks from that plant and for some reason we had a file with historic photos of the area.

It's being poignant while self-aware of how pointless that is?

I suspect the stencil's going to have a different effect on viewers seeing a recovered chunk of wall inside a gallery than it did on those who found it only after stumbling across a couple acres of building debris and toxins in the company of a small posse of friends for safety and mutual protection.
posted by ardgedee at 6:30 AM on May 17, 2010


Space Invader in Paris has a problem with people stealing his mosaics. Here's an example. The video of the thief is lost to time, but my memory is the cameraman confronted the guy pulling it off the wall and the thief was just "what? I'm taking this. You gonna stop me?". It looked like he was taking it off the street in Paris so he could resell it some day. What a shame.
posted by Nelson at 6:31 AM on May 17, 2010


Vandalism, or Blandalism?
posted by Flashman at 6:33 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


wait, wait…a whole FOLDER of free haircuts?

I think we all know whats in there ;)
posted by ShawnString at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2010


Just kidding, I like Banksy's style. I used to live around the corner from one of his pieces on Essex Road in Islington that's also been desecrated in the name of 'preservation.' Someone's stuck a piece of perspex over it to protect it, but the perspex has trapped moisture and clouded over and is also probably hastening the deterioration of the paint.
posted by Flashman at 6:38 AM on May 17, 2010


I support Boston student hairstylists.

and hat merchants.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:43 AM on May 17, 2010


I really don't see any difference between a Banksy being moved to a gallery and fresco in a city art museum. Except perhaps the compression of time.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 6:50 AM on May 17, 2010


I too support the idea that private property consisting of giant blocks of concrete surrounded by litter and wind-blown plastic bags is far too valuable to our society to cover over with art, which anyway is supposed to be stuck in a building somewhere so I can't see it unless I pay $20 to see it.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 AM on May 17, 2010


Shohn: I just can't buy in to the idea that lionizing vandals and legitimizing vandalism like this is a good idea. It's vandalism; it's destruction. Well-drawn graffiti is still graffiti, and I hate it.

But, then what's the difference between public art, community murals and graffiti? Do you hate Basquiat also? And what about cave painting? If the contemporary landscape is the urban city building wall, what's wrong with artistic expression on that medium? Aside from the get-of-my-lawn 'I hate graffiti' - what's the real argument against it?

And what about the speech argument? Shepard Fairy's work has often been political. Would you distinguish between mediums? Poster vs. paint vs. sculpture? Is your argument about intent or the aesthetics or property value?

My own take? New Banksy works are often popping up in the blocks around my house, and they're always fun. I'd like to see tons more public art by guerilla artists.
posted by jardinier at 7:08 AM on May 17, 2010


I really don't see any difference between a Banksy being moved to a gallery and fresco in a city art museum. Except perhaps the compression of time.

Most frescos in museums were not illegally painted on someone else's property without permission, and they're generally better done than this. Banksy is a vandal. If he were painting on his own materials in a studio or doing commissioned works on walls, I can't imagine that too many people would care about his art. It's pretty meh.

I feel the same way about graffiti "artists" the same way I do about comedians who depend on shock value in their routines. If you're depending on subversiveness rather than quality to get a response to your work, maybe you should find something else to do. Something you're good at.

The big problem with fancy-schmancy graffiti that's making a statement on run-down vacant buildings is that it encourages and legitimizes the punks that spray paint pictures of penises on the playground down the street.
posted by Dojie at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2010


I feel the same way about graffiti "artists" the same way I do about comedians who depend on shock value in their routines. If you're depending on subversiveness rather than quality to get a response to your work, maybe you should find something else to do. Something you're good at.

It was touched on a bit earlier in the thread, but contemporary art is about more than just how a thing looks. It's theoretical, conceptual, it invokes context and contemporaneous social events and politics and unrelated pop culture. So to say that an artist who depends on subversiveness to get a response to her work isn't good at art is to completely misunderstand what art is understood to be in the present art world.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:23 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


"But, then what's the difference between public art, community murals and graffiti?" ... "Aside from the get-of-my-lawn 'I hate graffiti' - what's the real argument against it?"

The first two are done with the permission of the owners of the wall, the last without. Is that really hard to figure out?
posted by Mitheral at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2010


1. Sue Banksy for defacing my precious, precious wall.
2. Sue 555 for stealing my valuable work of art on my precious wall.
3. Sell valuable work of art.
4. Profit, profit, profit.
posted by electroboy at 7:29 AM on May 17, 2010


After seeing the movie, I'm with MuffinMan in that Banksy is probably having a damned good laugh over the situation. I don't even know how to explain why - probably the idea that his street graffiti has blown up to the point that separate conversations about context and vandalism are sparked off which will only serve to feed his cycle of hype.

I like some Banksy but I can't help but feel like he's fucking with me on some higher level. I recommend torrenting the movie if you can. Hell, talking about the movie makes me feel like I've succumbed to the meme that I tried to fight for 90 minutes and I didn't even pay for my ticket.
posted by zix at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is dumb.
posted by humannaire at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2010


I feel the same way about graffiti "artists" the same way I do about comedians who depend on shock value in their routines. If you're depending on subversiveness rather than quality to get a response to your work, maybe you should find something else to do. Something you're good at.


There's something I was unable to articulate about graffiti art, but I think you've hit upon it in a roundabout way, Dojie.

Unlike a comedian that depends on shock value, a graffiti artist will never really "own" their work in the way someone who's working on their own property will. Any comedian working on a stage has ownership of their routine and domain over that stage for the duration of the act, regardless of quality or how funny they actually are. They might get booted off the stage, but it was still all theirs for that time.

Graffiti art is sometimes less about subversion than it is about being subverted. Anyone throwing up their tag on a wall might feel like they have some sort of stake in that piece of the city for the moment, but the city makes its own rules. If someone else wants to paint over it, they can. But if it was just a paint/erase dynamic, then it'd be the same as the comedian -- they'd have domain over their act, and it'd have an ending. With graffiti, it can get painted over, or modified, ridiculed, or in this case, moved to a completely different context. The artist is committing to something they will never really own. They acknowledge they can be subverted.

If Banksy ever objected to anyone moving his work like this, it renders a part of my argument invalid. Regardless, there's something there with public works like this that other work does not have.
posted by mikeh at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2010


A key thing about good street art is placement. It may or may not be technically legal to paint/affix the wall in question, but a well situated bit of street art is placed in an area that's inoffensive. Banksy is particularly good at making local commentary, making his stencils and text so that it says something to the people living in the area. Space Invader carefully places his mosaics in small, out of the way areas of Parisian buildings, often public buildings, where they integrate into the scene rather than stand out.

I don't think it's fair to compare either to the cretins who scratchbomb or sticker their stupid name scrawls on every available surface the cops aren't looking at that moment.
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Space Invader in Paris has a problem with people stealing his mosaics. Here's an example. The video of the thief is lost to time, but my memory is the cameraman confronted the guy pulling it off the wall and the thief was just "what? I'm taking this. You gonna stop me?". It looked like he was taking it off the street in Paris so he could resell it some day. What a shame.

Oh yeah, and screw that. You put street art up, what happens to it afterwards is part of the process. And if you're doing it right, that process is the art.

If you're not doing it right, either quit or move into a gallery.

On a side-note, clever is a street art tradition. There is an artist named Banksy who seems to be doing quite well with it. But he did not invent it.
posted by humannaire at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My beans, let me show you it.
posted by Mister_A at 7:59 AM on May 17, 2010


Art galleries are so lame. I'd rather go to an abandoned factory any day. Seriously, art galleries are like waiting rooms but without anywhere to sit.
posted by fuq at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2010


I'm looking forward to seeing what Banksy does to the 555 gallery.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2010


Space Invader disagrees with you about his pieces being removed from where he installed them, humannaire. He recognizes that street art is impermanent ("Je sais qu'une fois posé dans la rue rien n'est éterne"), but he'd like it if people didn't take his pieces for themselves.

One thing that's fun about Parisian street art is there's a scene of a few well known artists that enjoy working "together" by putting pieces up near each other or modifying each other's work. Mesnager and Mosko are fond of painting on each other. And I love this random wall, a harmonious installation of five different artists. This kind of collaboration is "whatever happens after is part of the artistic process". Merely covering or removing something just deletes the art.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2010


God, the world would be such a better place if people were confronted with more art in their day-to-day lives and encouraged to create it themselves using tools commonly available.

Spray-painting penises at the local playground, that's not art and has nothing to do with Banksy, that's just being an asshole. I would argue that assholes are created by an anonymous world without heart or soul, one that emphasizes sterile conformity. The cure for that is more art, not less.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


When the Year Zero ARG was taking place, Trent Reznor was on tour in Europe. Somehow or another, one of the "clues" in the ARG was this billboard (note the Banksy pig policemen) in London.

The physical billboard was in place for 2-3 days before it was stolen. Not painted over, not had something new posted on it. The entire billboard was stolen off the wall.

Banksy's art can and will be taken if at all possible. Sad but true.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 AM on May 17, 2010


Spray-painting penises at the local playground...

Is that a thing? I noticed one of those last week. It really screams gleeful emptiness to me.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:44 AM on May 17, 2010


Yeah, it's a thing. I have no idea how these penises hold a can of spray paint, but they really have no regard for public property, and are a corrupting influence on our children.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:05 AM on May 17, 2010


I feel the same way about graffiti "artists" the same way I do about comedians who depend on shock value in their routines. If you're depending on subversiveness rather than quality to get a response to your work, maybe you should find something else to do. Something you're good at.

"Shocking and subversive" and "quality" are by no means mutually exclusive. If you scan through history and filter out all the artists, in all media, who relied in part on subversion and shock tactics to elicit a response with their art, we'd be pretty much left with Thomas Kinkade and Perry Como.

I am on the side of more artists like Banksy, even though I don't necessarily get it. A world full of art I don't necessarily get is not a bad thing.
posted by padraigin at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Last year a Banksy 'piece' (is that the word?) appeared on the North Circular Road, a short but unlovely drive from where I live. Not everyone appreciated it. The ongoing skirmishes between Banksy and other London graffiti artists are an interesting and under-reported aspect of the whole Banksy phenomenon.
posted by verstegan at 9:23 AM on May 17, 2010


I like some Banksy but I can't help but feel like he's fucking with me on some higher level. I recommend torrenting the movie if you can. Hell, talking about the movie makes me feel like I've succumbed to the meme that I tried to fight for 90 minutes and I didn't even pay for my ticket.

Will have to check that out. I have the book "Wall and Piece" and I have to say, given what little I can glean about the man's attitude, I would be very surprised if he were in any way offended by what has happened to this piece. He clearly accepts that he loses control over his work the moment he leaves the scene -- part and parcel of how he chooses to express himself -- and often keeps tabs on works to see how long they last. I think he would find this thing highly amusing, and I suspect that if it becomes a regular fate for his work, he'll find a way to make this challenging in more ways than one.

Have to say I was also only so-so on his work until I dug through that book and I became a total convert.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2010


Detroit City hall should pay Banksy to tag everything they want torn down and cleaned up, considering that's how most of the city is going to end up in a few years.
posted by GuyZero at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah Wall and Piece is a pretty great book. It is also amusing that I purchased my copy at the Tate Modern, whose sister institution the Tate Britain is featured in the book as a location of one of Banksy's subverted painting.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2010


jardinier: my beef with graffiti is this: it's criminal and it's destructive and it's generally something that the owner of the contemporary landscape doesn't want on his or her canvas. My feelings are due largely to the fact that it used to be part of my job to see that graffiti was removed from playgrounds and park benches, and shelters, and recreation centers and signs, and trees and pretty much everything else in a park that will stand still long enough for some burgeoning street artist to render into a masterpiece of youthful expression.

Removing graffiti is expensive, labor-intensive, and a real pain in the ass. A lot of times the medium can't be removed by solvents or by painting over it. If it's on the sidewalk, you pretty much have to sandblast it. That removes the graffiti and a layer of cement, which means the lifespan of that section of sidewalk has been shortened by some degree. And there's no good way to remove graffiti from a tree.

Add to this my extreme distaste for vulgarities and crude anatomical depictions on playgrounds intended for children to use. That really steams me, and has led me to look disapprovingly on any form of graffiti, whether it's good art or it makes a statement or not.

I like art. I like public art. I think the world could use more art, as a general rule. But I don't think that every punk with a can of Krylon and a chip on his shoulder should have the right to make art on any flat surface just because it's there.

When somebody like Banksy gets a tongue bath from the public, I can't help but think that it encourages all manner of like-minded individuals who probably don't even have his questionable talent level. I'll pass.
posted by Shohn at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2010


Oooh, a "Is Banksy art/graffiti/vandalism/terrorism" thread! I think this offering sums up Banksy's motivation pretty well. Personally, I think he falls somewhere between and "witty troll" and "gadfly", but I also feel that he is decidedly not stupid.

I should probably watch that movie.
posted by the painkiller at 10:18 AM on May 17, 2010


I really don't care that the 555 group did this. Banksy's sentiment here still applies: "I remember when all of this was trees" The comment remains true whether the context is an art gallery or a post-industrial wasteland. Banksy wins.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2010


I've gleefully offered that if any of my friends find an original Banksy near me, I'll paint over it and sign it, much like Rauchenberg and de Kooning. I got no beef with the guy, but it's always fun to force history into repeating now and again.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2010


it's criminal and it's destructive and it's generally something that the owner of the contemporary landscape doesn't want on his or her canvas.

There are no "owners" of the contemporary landscape. You can't own a landscape. You can own a field, a building, a block, an estate, but the landscape is an experiential (and highly individual) place as well as a physical one. The Grand Canyon is just a big, eroded crack in the ground, but much more than that when you're standing on the edge looking down. Or rafting deep inside, looking up. How you or I experience the landscape, or what we would like that landscape to be, is subjective.

As far as the removal goes, I feel pretty much the same way as I do about the Dia Art Foundation wanting to build up Spiral Jetty so that it is never submerged. The situation is slightly different, as Dia has some rights to the work. It just seems the motivation is based entirely on materialism, with no acknowledgment of the entropy of the landscape as integral to the work. For 555 and Dia, the value of the piece hinges on someone's (preferably their) control of the piece in question, and that seems to be completely missing the point.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Large parts of Detroit function on a junkie scavenger economy. Gallery 555 is just commenting on that, doing their version of a crackhead stripping copper lines out of abandoned houses.
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give me a break, I'm not comparing him to a Nazi. I'm saying that people manage to imbue his fairly bland pieces with crazy amounts of pathos and tragedy and meaning and crap. I would find it hilarious to see the meaning and pathos ascribed to a Banksy painting of a swastika.

I mean that, I'd really like it to happen.
posted by jacalata at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2010


eh...let him tag a private home and I'll express outrage, doing it to a run down abandoned piece of shit concrete wall? A++, and you know in a conservationalist way it's great. There is a section of concrete that will be treated well, and not end up as rubble taking up uglification space.
posted by edgeways at 11:29 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would find it hilarious to see the meaning and pathos ascribed to a Banksy painting of a swastika.

1) I think a swastika is a little too lazy of a provocation for Banksy, so I'd be surprised to see him employ it.

2) Again, the thing that is interesting about Banksy's work is the context, both physical and philosophical, a lot of which is explored at length in Suzi Gablik's book Conversations Before the End of Time-- which is an extended discussion about the privatization of art, the way it has been gradually specialized and removed from the general public, locked behind doors in big cities, and given giant price tags and giant pedigrees, all of which function to separate non-commercial self-expression from society at large. Banksy is continually subverting this process, both by hanging his own paintings in art galleries to see how long they remain before people realize they don't 'belong' there, and by creating artwork in noncommercial venues to comment not only on culture in a general, political sense where people can actually see it, but also on this specialized problem of the elite art world.

The fact that a Banksy piece is now going to be removed from its original context to be displayed in an art gallery is therefore hilarious for at least a couple reasons. However, I think some of the characterization in this thread that Banksy's work is uninteresting or not aesthetically pleasing enough or is too illegal or whatever are sort of explaining the problem that he's addressing rather than actually criticizing the work.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:57 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'd love for bland buildings worldwide to be covered in graffiti. It's certainly more interesting to look at than blank concrete or brick.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:20 PM on May 17, 2010


I think it's a trojan wall. Watch the security cam footage and see little taggers climb out at night.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the part where context became a significant factor AFTER 555 moved it.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:20 PM on May 17, 2010


Graffiti by it's very nature is usually illegal. So 'illegally removing' something that is illegal is...well at the very least interesting. But, in my book, not a big deal. And if the option is to either destroy it, paint over it or take it - then I choose take it. The only other option is to leave it to crumble and decay naturally, which is fine as well.

But seriously, applying rules to what one should or should not do with graffiti is rather humorous.
posted by Rashomon at 2:03 PM on May 17, 2010


I like the part where context became a significant factor AFTER 555 moved it.

What? This makes no sense. It was always a factor - context is inextricably linked to graffiti.

Would we have to discuss your head, beforehand, for it to be significant if someone decided to chop it off later this evening?
posted by jimmythefish at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2010


Elgin Marbles, anyone?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:32 PM on May 17, 2010


What? This makes no sense. It was always a factor - context is inextricably linked to graffiti.

Oh, come on. No, it's not. At what point does a Banksy cease to be a Banksy? The only context I've seen for any of his art is the the specific wall it's on. He could've done the same piece anywhere.

The time I spent doing street art, it was never some huge investement into context as it was a balancing act between 'visible placement' vs. 'getting caught'.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:33 PM on May 17, 2010


hengeman
<3>

posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:38 PM on May 17, 2010


Space Invader disagrees with you about his pieces being removed from where he installed them, humannaire.

So what? My point being that what Space Invader is doing is street art that is part of the game. If you put art on the street, what happens to it is fair game. Across the board. Including but not limited to getting cleaned by collectors.

If he really disagrees, the solution—as I pointed out—is to quit or move into a gallery.

But that is not street art.
posted by humannaire at 6:25 PM on May 17, 2010


The only context I've seen for any of his art is the the specific wall it's on.

Or, you know, the stuff he did in New Orleans that referenced New Orleans, and so on. He doesn't always reference the surroundings, but he often does, and if you took those new orleans pieces out of new orleans they'd lose some of their meaning.
posted by empath at 7:15 PM on May 17, 2010


It's not the first time a "banksy wall" has been taken down for personal profit.
posted by hubs at 8:48 PM on May 17, 2010


Or, you know, the stuff he did in New Orleans that referenced New Orleans, and so on.

Well, this one stayed in Detroit so that shouldn't be a worry. Most of his work could be plastered on any wall in the world and would retain the same meanings.

If you want to tell me how it's a big deal because someone came and grabbed it to sell privately or hung it for themselves, then yeah, I would understand the hoppita-moppita. But as it stands right now these people preserved it and in all likelihood more people are going to see it than they would have otherwise. That's pretty damn cool.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:01 PM on May 17, 2010


I like Banksy's response:
http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/images/TABLE/table_bgrd_10_07_USA.jpg


His SF pieces were first seen sometime around the end of April, before 555 took the piece in Detroit (possibly before he was even in Detroit). It's probably just a coincidence or it's in response to similar goings-ons with his work in the art community.

Also, it could have been a troll comment, but someone in the main article says they went to the gallery and the piece was no where in sight. It's a disgusting move for an art space, and another sad wake-up call for artists of this medium.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:50 AM on May 18, 2010




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