“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a living breathing thing which belonged to everybody, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall — it’s wet.”
Artist of the year? Banksy. How can we forget the powerful publicity stunt of Banksy placing his own art in New York’s four most exclusive museums? If great contemporary art can’t make it’s way into the New York MOMA, then what better tact than for the artist to place it there himself? Or what about his art spray painted earlier this year in Israel on the Palestinian side of the seperation wall?
It is really refreshing to see a great artist out there today pushing the limits of what is legal and acceptable for art. While in some ways it may be convenient to label Banksy an attention whore and a publicity stunt artist looking to build a name and reputation in the art community (aren’t we all, Warhol taught us well), underneath his self promotion is some undeniably great art and great social commentary.
By pushing the legal limits of what is allowable, Banksy’s art builds that much more relevancy. His work in many ways becomes an artistic statement and protest against the tiny little insignificant power figures that pop up everywhere, cops, security guards — all the little people who want to exert their personal authority and tell you what you can and can’t do with art.
Art should not be a crime and there is a huge difference in breaking laws for art that hurts no one and breaking laws that are truly destructive. As Banksy puts it, “Graffiti writers are not real villains. I am always reminded of this by real villains who consider the idea of breaking in someplace, not stealing anything and then leaving behind a painting of your name in four foot high letters the most retarded thing they ever heard of.”
Ektopia had one of the first reviews out on Banky’s first hardback published earlier last month, Wall and Piece. “Wall & Piece, published by Century, is the first proper hardback book dedicated to Banksy’s art. I immediately examined the book’s artwork. A simple rendition of one of Banksy’s famous pieces showing a hooligan throwing some flowers in the style of a fire bomb. Turn it over and there’s a lovely quote from a Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, “There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on the back cover.” And there you have it, typical Banksy cheekiness!