Sunday, October 20, 2013

Famous - or Infamous - "Artist" Banksy Tests Boundaries of "Art" in New York City

Is "graffiti" art? What if it's really, really good?

The world renowned artist - or "vandal" - Banksy has captured headlines and attention in recent weeks, as his artwork has been appearing around New York City in what The Guardian has called a "Guerrilla Graffiti Art Blitz." Apparently, the reclusive artist out of London is in the Big Apple and on one of his more well publicized campaigns to bring art to the masses, wherever he chooses to display it.  The artwork - like all graffiti - turns up on buildings and immediately creates a media sensation with people gathering and talks of preserving the pieces competing with the conflicted interests of the property owners.  Regardless of a person's view of Banksy and his work, there is no doubt it creates a buzz, and to possess a piece is a real treasure to some - especially if it only costs $60.  Or if you think it may be worth $1 million.

Banksy is an "urban artist" who gained prominence years ago after he was profiled in a fascinating bit of guerrilla filmmaking called Exit Through the Gift Shop.  

Like all things Banksy, the film was cryptic and controversial and in many ways created more questions than it answered:

Certainly, Banksy and the idea of "graffiti" versus "art" is complicated and controversial, and my conclusions on Banksy are still not fully formed.  The issue of vandalism and property rights in conflict with the creation of art is easy to decide - at least for me - when talking about something like "gang tagging"or other seemingly destructive pieces.  But it becomes more complicated when the art is just so captivating and, well, good:

Banksy, I think, truly serves the definition of artist in his ability to challenge the conventions of society. And that's probably a good thing.

"We can't do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles. In the meantime we should all go shopping to console ourselves."
— Banksy, Wall and Piece


Ken Watsek said...

I agree with you about the graffiti versus art conundrum. But I would be inclined to put Banksy into the latter category. His work is very good indeed. Everyone was really disappointed when one of his pieces, that happened to be in our neighbourhood, was removed and auctioned off earlier this year.
But its still fun to see what he comes out with next.

Ken Watsek

mmazenko said...

I'd have to agree on the issue of "art," Ken. I'd have to say, I would think it's pretty cool to have a Banksy in my neighborhood. But I bet the city leaders would take it down.