Friday, 21 August 2009

Banksy (Part II)

We queued for about an hour to see the Banksy exhibition, which was not as bad as the wait advertised. The queue was one of those snaky ones they have in post offices and had an ice cream van stationed at one of the major turns. The ice cream queue caused a bit of a hold up, which one enterprising yummy mummy and her brood of 3 took advantage of in order to cut across and queue-jump. My remonstrations and loud complaints were of no avail; she obviously had more front than Southend beach and obviously not of Anglo-Saxon heritage, or else she would have understood that queue-jumping in the UK is on a par with paedophilia and leads to the same social ostracism as leprosy. She was eventually upbraided by one of the marshals and made to wait further on.

We had bought a Banksy ‘manual’ a couple of days before on Amazon for about £2.99, the very same book that was selling in the exhibition gift shop for about £13. It is interesting to note from the book that Banksy had been persuaded, against his better judgement, to assert his copyright rights, despite a large banner on the copyright page stating that ‘copyright is for losers’. Mmmm – the words ‘sold’ and ‘out’ come to mind.

Here is an extract from the book: “The people who run our cities don’t understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless.” He has a point here.

He continues: “They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society, but graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three types of people; politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers. The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy there stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you’re never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back.” Another somewhat valid point.

However, he concludes: “Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.” What Banksy fails to grasp is that the vast majority of graffiti artists do not have the same view as him; their ‘art’ contains no irony; it does not incorporate careful juxtaposition and thought as to composition; it is no more than a mindless and inarticulate rant against society having no artistic merit whatsoever and is an eyesore which no-one wants to look at.

I would not call Banksy’s work graffiti. His work contains wit, humour, irony in spades and in many cases subtlety. It is urban social and political commentary. In that respect it is verging on propaganda – and excellent propaganda at that.

I just hope he doesn’t go up his own arse and sell out in a big way, as it would ruin his creativity, which in a way is what an exhibition does, as one tends to produce to order and then run out of statements. That's when the statements become either repetitive or vacuous.


  1. Hanging should be brought back but only for queue-jumpers. However, if this were applied in France, there wouldn't be many people left.

    No all graffiti is an eyesore, I quite like some of it.

    Yes, selling out and ruined creativity. Would Van Gogh have painted the same pictures had he been rich and famous?

  2. An interesting post with a number of things that need to be pondered over. My pondering took me along the road "has there ever been a radical artist who hasn't eventually sold out?" Leaving aside the ones who were prevented from selling out by dropping dead, I'm not sure if I could come up with a very long list whichever way you tend to interpret "artist". It needs to be the subject of a Blog post sometime.

  3. Kapgaf & Alan: They do say all great art is borne of adversity and pain. Shakespeare's 2nd album was never as good as his first.

  4. Chairman: Shakespeare's 2nd album.. I like it.
    Grafitti.. hmm.. I like the irony in Banksy's work - definitely some brains and thought behind it. In fact, I think thought might be the key (for me). In the train tunnels near Liverpool Street, the tag "MAZAA" is repeated in fat letters. Like I care who Mazaa is. It's just some kid with nothing better to do practising their own signature. But on one of the windows of a nearby building is a very simple smiley face which - even though I could have painted it - always cheers me up.
    Kapgaf: Genius runs a fine line with Decrepitude.. it's just so hard to tell which is which...

  5. Kabbalah (or is it Kapgaf): The 2nd album syndrome is well known. The spark of creativity is extinguished by the need to recreate the financial success of the first album.

  6. The inarticulate graffiti rant has a certain power to make people feel threatened in their own environment, and part of that power is its anonymity. Walking alone through an underpass, you wonder whether tonight all this spite and rage will be vented on you. This is why I don't like graffiti. Banksy - that's different.

  7. Perhaps.... and I humbly propose this.. perhaps the beauty of what one percieves and see's is in the eye of the beholder.. I for one look at some "art", and I use that word loosely, a particular chap who lived in Antibes and has a museum there jumps instantly to mind, and wonder why all the noise and fuss is made about the absolute CRAP he made and called art.

    At least his CRAP is behind closed doors and we are not FORCED to look upon it as we are here in the USA. ( more so than in the UK i fear)

    Advertising of kinds falls into the same catagory in my view.

    Money.. that's what drives it.. evil MONEY !

    lets hope the makers of spray paint capitalise on these peoples efforts.. they should at least develop a water based, soluble "TAG" paint.

  8. By the way:::: never heard of BANKSY till today.