The Dramatic and Drippy Banksy Intro Image! Meanwhile, you're all like "Wow, the drips are so realistic, it's like someone just stenciled 'BANKSY' on my computer screen . . . heady."
10.16 Banksy: Wall + Piece
Graf kids have a love/hate relationship with the state of subversive art. They like the fact that Basquiat got famous and all, but think that his SAMO shit was better than anything that came after and got Warhol's stamp of approval. They love having the Wildstyle tomes but hate the fact that SoHo lofters have them too, adorning coffee tables worth more than their best gallery-ready canvas would fetch. They adore Futura 2000 but hate that he's collaborated with Marc Ecko.
They love graffiti for the romanticized, imagined reality that it never was; not when Taki was bombing the A train and not when Norman Mailer was writing about the art form's potent and undeniably public virility-thru-illegality.
What they are enamored with, of course, is a distinctly American thing: New York Graf City and its status as the birthplace of hip-hop.
Refreshing, then, that the musical genre's visual partner has been adopted in countless countries by both the bourgeois and the blue-blooded.
Graffiti, it seems, is no longer the poor man's megaphone. Instead, it often serves these days as the everyman's cold shower, enacted more and more frequently by the thinking man's artist. That is, leave it to the graf kids to paint a public image that will make you second guess your commute or your latte or your miles per gallon or your spouse or your second helping or your political leanings or your [obviously imagined] sense of comfort.
Coming to rise during the Ministry of Tony Blair, Banksy [who may or may not be Robert Banks] has since made a name for himself as a vandal, prophet, sellout, prodigy, capitalist, anarchist, artist, hooligan, eyesore, and intellectual, among other things. These terms are, of course, rarely used in conjunction with one another. Bansky is, first and foremost, many different things to many different people [like, I suppose, most artists would be if their work were as conspicuous as Banksy's has become].
To supporters of street art and street artists themselves, Banksy may very well be the template--the thing to emulate when setting off down the only somewhat-beaten path to graffiti fame. Something to emulate because, to be fair to the man, Mr. Banks has the formula right. The balance has been perfected.
The balance, of course, refers to the pop/underground juggling act: the very thing that places Mr. Banks' work on UK street corners and LA gallery walls simultaneously. Here is the man that makes the bread + cheese [Angelina Jolie is a big fan, supposedly] and maintains the street credibility [he puts up public pieces at least once a month--illegally of course]; the man that publishes coffee table books and still goes to his gallery openings incognito [likely for multiple reasons, one of which is to duck the authorities].
It is the coffee table book in question that prompted the write-up. "Wall + Piece," from Random House imprint Century [Random House being, of course, one of the biggest + most profitable book publishers in the world], is a compendium of the artist's work to date. Much like a print version of www.banksy.co.uk, the book organizes work into indoor + outdoor sections, with mini-chapters devoted to public sculpture and illegal museum hangings [in which the artist, unprompted, hangs his own work in various reputable national galleries, among them the Natural History Museum and the Tate].
And the work within, for all its [mostly] overt political + social leanings, is very good. It is the kind of art that the liberal elite love to hang on their walls--at times complex enough that intellectuals might squeeze a little something more out of it but, at a base level, understandable [or at least able to be appreciated] by virtually any viewer. And this accessibility is the means by which the work hits home in such a big way, adored at both ends of the spectrum by street-urchins and movie stars alike.
And so is Banksy a hypocrite for publishing a $35.00 coffee table book pressed by a company that generally grosses upwards of $2 billion a year? I suppose he's most likely a hypocrite for other things before this [although it's always interesting to predict how much he takes home from each sale of the book]. Given the fact that the book has sold over 50,000 copies and that a Banksy piece went for almost $600,000 at auction earlier this year, you could easily hate the man for being more [monetarily] successful than you. But I don't encourage it.
Because when has a controversial, thought-provoking, clever leftist ever made it big for cutting up boxes and reinterpreting iconic images? Never, really. You could argue the Great White Father, I suppose. But never mind that. If anyone deserves the riches + repute, it's the guy who does it first and does it tactfully. I may have put a few ducats in the man's pocket via the purchase of "Wall + Piece." But the picture of the attack helicopter with the Minnie Mouse bow atop--that image alone makes up for any expense incurred.