With less than seven days left for Banksy’s New York City residency, titled “Better Out Than In,” the British street artist still has admirers and dissenters, more or less, on the edge of their seats, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg mostly frustrated. Each day in October has welcomed a new work on the streets of the Big Apple, varying from classic Banksy mischief to insightful mobile and kinetic works that could have easily been mislabeled as pranks to the uninformed. Of course, Banksy remains no stranger to controversy and his works have garnered the attention you would expect.
One of the “Better Out Than In” installations that had everyone talking was “Art Sale." A vendor sat along Central Park, selling original Banksy pieces for $60.00. Of course, no one knew these were original Banksy pieces. Clearly, the prolific street artist was playing us, his audience, for what we’re willing to consider art. Think about the countless street vendors that line-up along Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art every day. Would you consider their work worth buying? If you did buy it, would it be as an investment or simply because you liked the work? Banksy addressed those questions directly through this fleeting vendor. With the only signage visible reading “SPRAY ART,” he called all the people out who don’t give art a chance, whether it’s trapped in a gallery or on the streets. And if you're like me and feeling regret for missing his little gift shop, then we're exactly who he's talking to.
The next development was the trend of charging people to see a Banksy. These individuals, while quite entrepreneurial, really made no sense. The thought of having people pay admission to see public art-- art in the street-- is kind of crazy to me and defeats the purpose of work by Banksy or any artist who works in the streets. That’s probably one of the worst things. Ever.
Then there’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A big supporter of the arts in NYC, the mayor weighed in during a press conference for a new water tunnel underneath Central Park. His statement was more philosophical than incendiary, very unlike the tabloids projected:
“I’ll leave it up to our Department of Cultural Affairs. But look, graffiti does ruin people’s property and it’s a sign of decay and loss of control. Art is art. And nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am. I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted. And I think that’s exactly what the law says.”
While Bloomberg is entitled to his standards and opinions, I think that art should be brought to the people. Especially when the mayor also approved the Metropolitan Museum of Art to change their suggested $25 donation to a mandatory one-- but that’s a different story. The point is there are dozens of galleries in NYC alone, but not everyone is in the know about them. I think this is why street art is important and almost necessary. I don’t like to think of NYC as a perfect and spotless city. I think it’s vibrant and colorful. Street artists, like Banksy, help make that happen.
Which Banksy piece is your favorite? Tag it up in the comments!
Images from Better Out Than In