But is it art?

Graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Despite having to creep about at night and lie to your mum it’s actually the most honest artform avaliable. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on some of the best walls a town has to offer, and nobody is put off by the price of admission“.

Banksy Wall and PieceThese are the opening words in Banksy’s new book I purchased roughly a month ago. For those of you that didn’t know who Banksy was – shame on you! You know now he is a grafitti artist, but here is the sort of “grafitti” Banksy is famous for: (Source: Wikipedia)

    • At London Zoo, he climbed into the penguin enclosure and painted ‘We’re bored of fish’ in seven foot high letters.
    • At Bristol Zoo, he left the message ‘I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring.’ in the elephant enclosure.

    • In March 2005, he placed subverted artworks in the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
    • He put up a subverted painting in London’s Tate Britain gallery.
    • In May 2005 Banksy’s version of a primitive cave painting depicting a human figure hunting wildlife whilst pushing a shopping trolley was found hanging in the British Museum, London. Upon discovery, the museum added it to their permanent collection.
    • Banksy has sprayed ‘This is not a photo opportunity’ on certain photograph spots.
    • In August 2005, Banksy painted nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall.
    • In June 2006, Banksy created an image of a naked man hanging out of a bedroom window on a wall in central Bristol. The image sparked some controversy, with the Bristol City Council leaving it up to the public to decide whether it should stay or go. After an internet discussion in which 97% (all but 6 people) supported the stencil, the city council decided it would be left on the building.
    • In August/September 2006, Banksy replaced up to 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s debut CD, Paris, in 48 different UK record stores with his own cover art and remixes by Danger Mouse. Music tracks were given titles such as “Why am I Famous?”, “What Have I Done?” and “What Am I For?”. Several copies of the CD were purchased by the public before stores were able to remove them, some going on to be sold for as much as £750 on online auction websites such as eBay. The cover art depicted Paris Hilton digitally altered to appear topless. Other pictures feature her with a dog’s head replacing her own, and one of her stepping out of a luxury car, edited to include a group of homeless people, which included the caption 90% of success is just showing up.
    • In September 2006, Banksy dressed an inflatable doll in the manner of a Guantanamo Bay detainment camp prisoner (orange jumpsuit, black hood, and handcuffs) and then placed the figure within the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.

Queen and her bloody Corgi - BanksyThis man is a creative genius, with balls of steel! His book is fascinating, filled with loads more of his masterpieces and the stories behind creating the art pieces, often including stories of hiding from the police, under train carriages and in thorny bushes.

Today I thought I would go and see Banksy’s work, up close and personal, at the Andipa Gallery in South Kensington, London. Not long ago this distinguished gallery would have sniffed at the idea of exhibiting street art. Now the residents of the area are paying tens of thousands of pounds to purchase his pieces.

Yes you heard right. Tens of thousands of pounds.

Gone was my idea of purchasing a print of one his works. Even those were “limited signed copies” selling for over 5000 pounds each. Apparently his work is now selling all over the world to the rich and famous. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are said to have a stash of Banksy’s work, worth over 200 000 pounds. Keanu Reeves is said to have bought a piece, and it is rumoured that Banksy was asked by Prince Harry to produce something for his love, Chelsea. Banksy’s biggest earnings resulted from a piece that showed a young girl hugging an atomic bomb that went for 150 000 pounds.

Is this not going against everything that Banksy’s work stands for? “There is no elitism or hype” in grafitti.

Or is Banksy making another profound statement, mocking the rich and famous.

Banksy Elephant

The controversial painted elephant at the L.A. exhibit


Banksy punks Paris Hilton
Banksy at Disneyland

3 thoughts on “But is it art?”

  1. I love Banksy and although controversial, I believe graffiti needs to be balanced between freedom of speech and vandalism. The stunt he pulled with Paris’ CD’s was a great laugh though, irrespective of anything! 🙂

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