For the past month in New York a revolution has been occurring by none other than the graffiti artist Banksy. His latest project, Better Out Than In, has him traveling all over the city unveiling one graffiti art piece a day. The response has been massive. According to Banksy's website police in New York have already stopped one of his art pieces being displayed and the New York Times refused to print an article he wrote criticizing the new One World Trade Center being built on Ground Zero.
If you don't know anything about Banksy let me give you a brief background check. His identity is unknown other than he is a British born artist that made his name on the streets of Bristol with his signature satirical graffiti art with heavy social and political commentary starting in the 1980's. Other than that there is no photo confirming exactly who Banksy is and where he came from. It is rumored that he was born in 1974 and only one reporter has been allowed to meet him face to face but the description following about Banksy's identity is questionable. In 2010 Banksy released his first film, Exit Through The Gift Shop, and by January of 2011 it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Documentary.
Over the years Banksy has grown to be one of the most popular and highest priced artists in the art world and let's just say he is not too happy about it. Being an artist that made his name on the streets he is not very happy to see how bidders and gallery owners are literally cutting his pieces out of the wall to sell for the prestige of owning a Banksy original. Bringing us up to date with his newest project in New York that you can follow on his website or instagram. A few weeks ago Banksy opened a pop-up stall in Central Park selling original Banksy stencil works for only $60 a piece, a 10,000% discount. It was a one day thing and so few people actually believe that it was original Banksy that he ended up only selling 8 pieces to 3 people. These 3 lucky people are now the owners of Banksy's that are worth approximately $200,00 a piece.
"Art’s market value, like that of fashion, is derived from name more than any material properties. The Chinese factory workers sewing Chanel handbags can make the same bags, after hours, but they’ll be low-rent knockoffs without the interlocking “C”s. The same goes for an assistant who painted, without the master’s imprimatur, Damien Hirst’s dots. The Brand does transubstantiation. It turns crackers into the flesh of Christ. But Banksy accomplished something else when he sold his canvases in Central Park. Like graffiti artists, artists who sell on the street have an antagonistic relationship with the law....
At a time when 1970's subway taggers are flown to Paris to mark up Louis Vuitton stores, Banksy is criticized for making money. 'When you go to an art gallery, you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires,' he wrote. And he’s right. In the world of galleries, artistic success means prices that rise until an artist’s audience is just bankers and oligarchs. Art’s radical social ambitions chafe against its economic realities. A gallery artist is a Fabergé egg maker pretending to be a revolutionary. Banksy is a massively successful gallery artist. But, of all gallery artists, he’s one of the most skeptical. What some criticize as “spectacle” is really just refusing the model that ties exclusivity to success. Banksy might be selling rebellion. Still, with the profits, he’s able to rebel on a larger and more lacerating scale. Banksy takes the art world’s money, but he won’t buy its line."
- Molly Crabapple for The Creative Time Reports on October 15, 2013
|A fibreglass replica of Ronald McDonald having his shoes shined by a real live boy. The sculpture will visit the sidewalk outside a different McDonalds every lunchtime for the next week.|
|The Sirens of the Lambs. A slaughterhouse delivery truck touring the meatpacking district and then citywide for the next two weeks.|
As a practicing artist that has many issues with the institute of the gallery already I am ecstatic to see Banksy out and about and making a statement. Yes, you could argue that he is a sell out that is still making millions of dollars off of his art (he is estimated to be worth $20 million dollars) but at the same time it could be argued that he would never have been able to get the attention that he is now unless he had done that. It's a case of do the ends justify the means? In this case I would say yes. He has created the tongue-in-cheek organization Pest Control to be the representing force behind authenticating his art and by doing so he refuses to authenticate any of his art, leaving buyers with no way to prove that they own original Banksys'. That is only one of the many statements he is making about the state of fine art today. By putting him the gallery he has been put on a pedistool that he never asked to be put on and now he is using his fame to say fuck you to the art world and start a real revolution.
There's one story that I read about how in LA Banksy graffitied a caption of "This looks like an elephant" on the side of what he thought was an abandoned water tank. Within days two media monguls bought up the water tank and were going to sell it off to the highest bidders. It turned out that there had been a homeless man living in the water tank for 7 years and suddenly just lost his home because Banksy decided to spray paint on it. When Banksy heard about the homeless man he immediately bought the man an apartment and gave him enough money to live off of for a year. If that isn't enough he refused to authenticate that he was the one who spray painted on the water tank and now instead of it being profited for millions of dollars it is sitting in a metal scrap lot. That story and so many others along with this pro-active Better Out Than It project has lite a fire inside of me that has given me so much hope for the future of the art world. I am a very firm believer that art should be democratized and accessible to everyone, thus my extreme attraction to art of the body through clothing. We shouldn't look to the gallery, critics and labels to tell us what to like and how to feel and Banksy clearly feels the same way and is streaming it online for all the world to hear.