"I originally set out to try and save the world, but now I’m not sure I like it enough."
May 15, 2007 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Pinning down the elusive Banksy. "The art world is the biggest joke going," he has said. "It’s a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak." Yet the stencilist/graffiti writer's pieces regularly sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds at places like Sotheby's--not bad for a man who still remains cloaked in complete anonymity. The New Yorker gets a rare e-mail interview. [Previously: 1, 2, 3]
posted by dead_ (33 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A google search will reveal photographs of him. Hardly cloaked in complete anonymity.
posted by fire&wings at 10:40 AM on May 15, 2007

Yeah, douche.

posted by kbanas at 10:40 AM on May 15, 2007

Can someone please convince me of Banksy's supposed awesomeness? Really. Everytime I see his stuff I am left unconvinced. It's all so...prep-school-level thinking.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2007

I like his stencils/art.

That's about it.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:51 AM on May 15, 2007

I like to imagine everything Banksy says as coming out of the mouth of David Brent.
posted by Peter H at 10:58 AM on May 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sorry, Thorzdad, it's hard to massage someone else's "meh" without getting any on yourself.
posted by hermitosis at 10:59 AM on May 15, 2007

"The elephant in the room ...is global poverty. Yeah."
posted by Peter H at 10:59 AM on May 15, 2007

i saw this on my RSS and I thought it deserved the one-word comment "douche." But someone beat me to it on the 2nd comment.

prep-school-level thinking

Exactly. if Paris Hilton is sad and shallow, someone who makes his living cashing in on her and calling it "art" is sad and shallow times 10,000. At least Paris doesn't pretend to be anything better than what she really is.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:09 AM on May 15, 2007

... you mean other than pretending to be a singer and an actress, right?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:14 AM on May 15, 2007

Tell you what, when you live in a big city where vistas are crammed with advertisements and design-by-committee artwork and messages, there is a real thrill in seeing grandiose graffiti artwork of almost any kind. Even bad artwork seems more interesting because of the mystery and the risk involved. Then take into consideration how bland and mediated most political messages and observations usually are, even during times of war. The snarky, jejune, nutty, inspired, or otherwise unadulterated messages are usually exchanged between individuals or consumed in private (like here!).

That's where the charm in these resides for me. Seeing them in a book, or online? Okay, clever. Or you know, not. But in real life, if I was walking down the street in a city where expression is limited to one's own personal space, and I came across one of these? It would make my whole day. It doesn't matter whether his message makes tons of sense, or is like OMGDEEP, it's about the playful spirit of someone getting out there and getting hands a little dirty and tweaking noses and finding a voice and not giving a shit-- PLUS the sort of capitalistic fantasy of someone winding up making a ton of money off of it. I think it's pretty fabulous.
posted by hermitosis at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2007 [5 favorites]

Banksy is a genius when it comes to self-promotion.
posted by bhouston at 11:20 AM on May 15, 2007

Given the success and commercial acceptance of Banksy as the 'mainstream-underground', I predict the future star of the art world is currently a struggling graphic designer, living in a flat somewhere, who will one day make a name for himself by designing and printing up flashy, high-gloss advertisements for major corporations and pasting them over Banksy's work.

It'll be so fucking meta your iPods will bleed. And you heard it here first.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

anyone else get the impression that banksy is precisely as privileged as the artists he criticises?
posted by shmegegge at 11:25 AM on May 15, 2007

Banksy is a genius when it comes to self-promotion.

So's this guy.
posted by Peter H at 11:28 AM on May 15, 2007

Banksy's not art. Metafilter commenting - now that's art.
posted by iamck at 11:33 AM on May 15, 2007

Banksy's attitude reminds me of someone who dropped out of art school after two semesters. It's why I simultaneously hate and adore his work. His work has the quick purity of someone who's sure he's the hottest thing ever (no matter what those stuffy professors think) and every pen stroke he makes will be valued like the codexes of DaVinci, only he somehow gets away with it. If he'd stayed in school two more years, he'd be an insufferable bore, so he hit the sweet spot of marketing, I guess. I'm sure that just like the other great commodifier, Warhol, we'll look back on this is ten years and not see what the big deal was.

At any rate, he annoys me less than Matt Barney, so I won't hate on him.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2007

a man who still remains cloaked in complete anonymity

A google search will reveal photographs of him. Hardly cloaked in complete anonymity.

Here we go.
posted by msbrauer at 12:04 PM on May 15, 2007

So, are all the Banksy haters saying that if they were able to make money from their own scribbles, they would happily turn it down in some sort of holier-than-thou gesture of nobility and "keepin' it real"? It's the so-called Art World that created a situation where Banksy can make huge amounts of cash for spray paint on canvas, why the hell would anyone not take advantage of that? I don't see any conflict with someone's "fight the system" ethos making bank off the people in the system who want to throw their money at the person in question. It's actually quite entertaining. I have a lot more scorn for people like the couple with the dilapidated row house trying to cash in on the graffitti on their wall than I do for Banksy.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2007

At least Paris doesn't pretend to be anything better than what she really is.

She pretends to be so much worse! I'm convinced she's a prankster artist of a much higher caliber. Banksy's just jealous.
posted by rottytooth at 12:59 PM on May 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

At least Paris doesn't pretend to be anything better than what she really is.

She's pretending to not be a drunk driver and/or above the law, right?

I really enjoy Banksy's work. I don't think there will be a rush of wanted posters put up around the world that will keep him from working. Also, I'd hit that.
posted by armacy at 1:30 PM on May 15, 2007

Banksy won't have made it until some Dadaist displays a blank wall entitled "Erased Banksy".
posted by Eekacat at 1:34 PM on May 15, 2007

oneirodynia, banksy is the one who's criticising people for making money off of art, and also for being born into privilege. his fight the system ethos is fine, his hypocritical attacks on artists whose lifestyle he only knows about because they're public figures isn't so much.
posted by shmegegge at 3:10 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Banksy still rocks my socks. His face being revealed is the real news here.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:29 PM on May 15, 2007

Sorry about the "cloaked in anonymity" foible. I was going by what the New Yorker had reported, which was that he was still unknown.
posted by dead_ at 3:40 PM on May 15, 2007

I love Banksy's works. I have no strong opinion either way on the the amount his stuff sells for and his thoughts on the art world. I just think he makes cool & funny pictures.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:32 PM on May 15, 2007

Will someone please think of the cows?
posted by blam at 6:00 PM on May 15, 2007

Recently, the London Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak wrote that Banksy’s “chief achievement, and I believe it to be a mammoth one, was finding a way to operate so successfully outside the art world”

Across town, meanwhile, amid the fashionable shops of Knightsbridge, a show titled “Banksy” had been mounted by a gallerist named Acoris Andipa, a descendant of what he says is civilization’s oldest art-dealing clan.

Keanu Reeves and Jude Law had shown up at a V.I.P. preview the evening before, as had Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who bought several pieces. “These days, everyone is trying to be famous, but he has anonymity,” Pitt told reporters. “I think that’s great.” The irony may have been lost on Pitt that one of Banksy’s publicists had invited him.

For his next show, “Crude Oils,” Banksy stocked a Notting Hill gallery

The gallery’s motto is “Art by People,” but its affiliates exhibit a caginess toward anyone outside their circle of trusted accomplices, many of whom work in semi-symbiosis. Banksy, for instance, illustrated the cover for “Think Tank,” a 2003 album by the band Blur, of which Damon Albarn is a member.

Having previewed the show in Gstaad, he had now, a week after its opening, sold nearly half of the pieces, which he was offering at prices ranging from ten thousand to two hundred thousand dollars. Twirling a pen, he reported that walk-in traffic at the gallery had increased fifteenfold.

Cheyenne Westphal, from Sotheby’s, confirmed that the market for Banksy has exploded over the past year. “I feel in many ways that we are only at the beginning,” she said. Michael Fischer, a hedge-fund manager who collects Banksy, put it this way: “He’s gone from zero to a hundred in, like, three seconds.”

Gary Hopkins, a councilman, told me, “I think we undermined his street cred by making him mainstream.”

“The art world is the biggest joke going,” [Banksy] has said.

posted by UbuRoivas at 6:18 PM on May 15, 2007

A propos of Banksy's stuff, not the New Yorker piece, which I look forward to, I have to say SUCK IT HATERz.

Speaking as a a long-time admirer of stencil-based image making, Banksy's actual visual expertise and clarity of line stand far above the particular elements so inexpertly, inaccurately, and incoherently snarked upon above.

It's very clear that a careful thought process which is very in tune with many aspects of the current ethos underlies Banksy's work - such as the the molotov cocktail-throwing guy who is hurling a bouquet from FTD.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by a local theater and bought tickets for that nights show. Seeing that the black-tee-shirted, tattooed kid was catching up on his fark or something on his laptop, I asked if he knew anything about the Banksy that had been thrown up on the wall of the building directly across from him. He clearly knew who I was talking about but had no idea what I was talking about.

I turned arund to show him, and the stencil was completely obscured - only for him, only in that one location for the entire block - by a City of Seattle power monolith.

The stencil, located directly in the field of view of anyone working in theticket booth should the powerbox be removed, was of a four-or-five year old, sporting baggy flannel shorts and an unidentifiable object.

The building it was on was clearly being prepped for demolition and I repeatedly wondered about sweet talking the demo crew into pulling the panel for me, knowing the rates the artist's work pulls. In the end, though, and due to my discussion with that clueless clerk, I determined that it was best to allow this very clearly site-based piece to live its' intended lifespan.

Banksy's stuff is remarkable and extremely worthwhile. It rewards long reflection with unexpected ambiguity. And I repeat: SUCK IT HTARZ. Banksy's stuff is outta yer fantasy league.
posted by mwhybark at 6:45 PM on May 15, 2007 [4 favorites]

meh. there must be at least 20,000 artists of all descriptions producing remarkable and extremely worthwhile work that rewards long reflection with unexpected ambiguity.

what irks me about this guy is that he seems to be disingenously & hypocritically claiming to somehow be outside "the art scene". he's not working the sides, he's working the middle & hitting the bottom, and doing it from behind a faux-outsider status & cult of personality that was done to death by warhol & the sex pistols. the art may be ok, how much of his rather disproportionate popularity is really due to the quality of the art itself, as opposed to the spectacle of banksinc?
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:07 PM on May 15, 2007

He's holding a flower, mwhybark.
posted by stavrogin at 9:24 PM on May 15, 2007

Isn't it fun to hate...?
posted by iamck at 9:53 PM on May 15, 2007

I always thought he was taller.
posted by Dizzy at 10:17 PM on May 15, 2007

I'd like Mr Banks a lot more if he took the money earned from his pieces and did something philanthropic with it.

Ms Hilton is soon to be spending all day pretending not to be someone's prison bitch.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:39 AM on May 16, 2007

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