Banksy opens New York ‘show’
The work of the elusive British street artist or artists known as Banksy has begun appearing in New York. Three pieces of stencilled graffiti have appeared on Banksy’s Web site, one each day since October 1, along with the message, “For the next month Banksy will be attempting to host an entire show on the streets of New York.”
The pieces seem intended to mock the stuffy atmosphere of international art museums, in New York and elsewhere. Banksy, whose works have sold for as much as $1.1 million at auction, has provided “an audio guide” that parodies the recorded tours offered to museum-goers to accompany the graffiti in Manhattan. The recording associated with the most recent image, a silhouette of a dog urinating on a fire hydrant, is one example:
Look again, and what do you see? That’s right: a structural recontextualizing of the juxtaposition between form and surface. Welcome to the art world. . . .
Perhaps, as some would argue, this is a broader comment on the nature of abusive relationships. But those people need to shut up. You know, they need to have some sense beaten into them, because that -- that’s like the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Banksy
This theme is a continuation of Banksy’s earlier work, including the 2010 film “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” which purported to be a documentary about Banksy filmed by Thierry Guetta:
“Exit Through the Gift Shop” takes an even more compelling turn when, after making a hopeless first effort at assembling his own film, Guetta turns into a graffiti artist himself. Leveraging his friendship with Banksy and Fairey, the wily showman turns into the personification of all that’s wrong with the contemporary art world, where hype, greed and narcissism too often out-shout genuine talent. . . .
Its ensemble of unreliable narrators notwithstanding, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” offers an absorbing glimpse of a bracingly subversive slice of the culture, as well as some tantalizing images of Banksy at work. It may raise a lot of questions, but they’re all the right ones. Ann Hornaday
For the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones, though, there is little to Banksy’s work beyond tongue-in-cheek sniping at today’s artistic institutions:
He may be banal and untalented, but because he stretches his limited gifts across the urban landscape, he has a much cooler reputation.
No one wants to be the elitist who denounces street art. The right to paint on other peoples’ walls is a sacred totem of our age. Street art is revered and its practitioners are beyond criticism simply because they tick so many boxes, from spontaneous street-level creativity to anti-authoritarianism. . . .
If you make street art you instantly, by that act, proclaim so many hip affinities that your art becomes a symbol of widely admired associations and meanings. All graffiti is cool. The form, not the content, defines that coolness. Calling out Banksy as a bad artist is therefore impossible. If you say he’s crap, he will turn out to be in on the joke. He’s the perfect fraud for our time. Jonathan Jones
On Tuesday, Banksy‘s site featured a photograph of a pair of boys stencilled on a wall, apparently plotting to steal a can of spray paint from a sign that reads “Graffiti is a crime.” Wednesday’s image showed the words “This is my New York accent” painted in an exuberant 20th-century graffiti scrawl on a garage door, with the words “normally I write like this” neatly stencilled below, as though typeset in italics.