Picking apart our interview with Tony Baxter of the “Stealing Banksy?” auction

April 19th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
The former site of Banksy's "No Ball Games" piece in London. Photo by Alan Stanton.

The former site of Banksy’s “No Ball Games” piece in London. Photo by Alan Stanton.

Yesterday we published an interview that Caroline Caldwell and I conducted with Tony Baxter, director of The Sincura Group. That’s the private concierge behind last year’s sale of the Slave Labour piece formally by Banksy and the upcoming Stealing Banksy? auction, which will have at least seven supposed Banksy street pieces up for sale. Not only do I disagree with a lot of what Baxter said in the interview, but I found many of his answers dodges at best and misleading or shady at worst, so, as promised, here are my thoughts on Baxter’s answers…

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Category: Featured Posts, Random | Tags: ,

The new Banksy(s)

April 17th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
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Banksy in Bristol. Photo from banksy.co.uk.

I don’t have much to add beyond what’s already been written elsewhere about the new Banksy pieces or pieces that have been all over the news in the last few days. But I do want to link to some of the best and most up-to-date articles I’ve seen covering these pieces.

In case you somehow haven’t heard, Banksy posted a new piece to his website earlier this week, shown above. Kinda looks like an old cover of The Atlantic, but it’s a well done piece and I imagine The Atlantic wasn’t the first to do something along those lines either. The manager of a financially struggling Bistol youth club located just down the road from where the piece was installed quickly removed the piece from the wall (which he does not own) in the hopes of selling it. Animal argues that this isn’t so bad. Then the piece was put on display in the youth club. The club’s CCTV cameras may have caught a really useless image of Banksy installing the piece. Then, the youth club manager started receiving death threats, so he worked with the city of Bristol to have the work removed by police and placed on display in the Bristol Museum.

Detail of Banksy's piece once moved inside the youth center. Photo by Banksy Locations & Tours.

Detail of Banksy’s piece once moved inside the youth center. Photo by Banksy Locations & Tours.

Police entering the youth club to remove the Banksy piece. Photo by Banksy Locations & Tours.

Police entering the youth club to remove the Banksy piece. Photo by Banksy Locations & Tours.

Another piece, a possible Banksy, has appeared in Cheltenham, near the headquarters of British NSA-equivalent GCHQ. While this piece hasn’t shown up on Banksy’s website, it looks like a Banksy to me. And I’m not the only person who thinks so. If we’re wrong and it’s not a Banksy, okay, but whoever the artist is is at least trying harder than most to emulate Banksy in concept, technique and placement. Given this piece’s proximity to the GCHQ headquarters, I really love the spy theme. Oh, and some people tried to vandalize the vandalism and then someone else washed off the paint… So begins the saga of this piece’s destruction.

Possible Banksy in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Kathryn.

Possible Banksy in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Kathryn.

Photos from banksy.co.uk and by Banksy Locations & Tours and Kathryn


Category: Art News, Photos | Tags:

Fra.Biancoshock’s loving destruction

April 17th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Detail of "Come to see my graffiti collection"

Detail of “Come to see my graffiti collection”

These new works by Fra.Biancoshock make me really uncomfortable. I love them. They are all part of his new series Graffiti is a Religion and were unveiled last month at his solo show Ephemeralism at 77 Art Gallery in Milan, Italy. The series is Fra.Biancoshock’s tribute to graffiti and graffiti culture, but it’s not as straightforward as that. Other artists, if they wanted to pay tribute to graffiti, might replicate what they see on the street onto a canvas. That’s certainly not unheard of. But that’s sort of work is just a facsimile. Fra.Biancoshock wanted the real thing, so he went out onto the streets of Italy and got it. He chipped graffiti off of walls and is putting it back on display in a series of artworks.

"Graffiti Puzzle"

“Graffiti Puzzle”

With “Graffiti Puzzle,” Fra.Biancoshock plays off the idea of famous paintings that get reproduced in puzzle form. Except, this time, it’s the actual wall that players are urged to reassemble. The wall is by the VMD 70′S crew (or a member of the crew), one of the most famous Italian graffiti crews. Although the labeling on the box suggests that the VMD 70′s were aware of this project and willing participants, I’m not sure, and I’ve decided that it’s more interesting not to know, so I haven’t asked Fra.Biancoshock.

Detail of "Graffiti Puzzle"

Detail of “Graffiti Puzzle”

For “Come to see my graffiti collection,” he carefully cataloged a process of removing small pieces of works of graffiti from around Italy and has put the tiny paint fragments back on display like a series of holy relics that references not only the complete pieces from which they were removed but the entire careers of those writers. Destruction, maybe? But as Fra.Biancoshock says, “The culture of graffiti here is treated like any other theme in the history of humanity.”

"Come to see my graffiti collection"

“Come to see my graffiti collection”

“Cornerstone” goes a step further and anonymizes the artists, a tribute to graffiti culture as a whole. It is made up of fragments of graffiti by some of the most historically important Italian writers, the people who together form the cornerstone of Italian graffiti culture.

"Cornerstone"

“Cornerstone”

We all long for physical representations of the things we hold dear or somehow important. But graffiti is ephemeral. 99.9% of the historic graffiti has been destroyed, and it’s really only through documentation that anything gets preserved. If graffiti is a culture that many people treat like a religion, what physical representations can we hold on to when the graffiti itself is made to be destroyed? Just old copies of Subway Art and black books I guess…

In this series, Fra.Biancoshock tackles that subject, and while his conclusions may seem absurd at first, they are not totally unfamiliar. Religious relics and historical artifacts are often treated like the pieces in Graffiti is a Religion: They are chopped up and spread so thin that they no long depict the whole of what they were, only reference it. In trying to love and preserve relics and artifacts, we often destroy them, as has been done here. And of as I’ve argued in the past, even ripping an entire artwork off of a wall in one piece, as has happened so often with Banksy’s work, does not really preserve it. That only gives a reference to what once was: An artwork placed on a particular wall in a particular public space. These paint chips are not graffiti, but they are all that we have once the buffman shows up.

With Graffiti is a Religion, Fra.Biancoshock simultaneously brings graffiti indoors and humbly acknowledges the impossibility of such a task. All of these pieces make me uncomfortable. The best art does that.

Photos by Fra.Biancoshock


Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags:

A smack in the face from DosJotas

April 8th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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The Spanish artist DosJotas was in New York City recently, and the left some signage around town (including in MoMA). For more from his DON’T EVEN THINK series, go here. While TrustoCorp’s street signs make me laugh DosJotas’ signs make me angry, whether they are true or just stereotypes that usually bubble underneath the surface. There’s no subtlety and little humor, if any. Just raw injustice in red, white and black. It can be great to laugh at life’s problems, because otherwise how would we all manage, but sometimes we just need to be smacked in the face with them. Okay, the MoMA piece is funny though.

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At MoMA

Photos by DosJotas


Category: Photos | Tags:

SHOK-1 helps extend The L.I.S.A. Project NYC further north

April 8th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

Shok1_Day 3-4 _RRosa-69

The UK’s SHOK-1 is the latest artist to work with us at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, and besides doing a great version of one of his trademark x-ray/rainbow pieces, this marks another minor milestone for the project: X-Rainbow (Arc) can be found at the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare streets in Manhattan, which makes it the northernmost mural for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC so far. Okay, it’s only about half a block further than our previous northernmost mural, but I’m celebrating the little victories as the project continues to expand.

Check out more in progress and detail photos after the jump…

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Category: Photos | Tags: ,

Barry McGee, Dan Murphy and Isaac T. Lin together in Philadelphia

April 3rd, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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Good news! One international superstar and two great Philadelphia mainstays are showing together in Philadelphia starting next week at the Department of Neighborhood Services show at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery. Barry McGee is of course Barry “TWIST” McGee. Dan Murphy is half of Megawords and Vandalog readers may know him as a key member of Steve Powers’ ICY Signs company. Isaac Lin used to be at Philadelphia’s famous Space 1026 and graffiti nerds around the world may know him for his involvement with the DFW zines (which Dan Murphy has also been involved in). These three artists have shown together before and Murphy and Lin are regulars in the Philadelphia art scene, but I don’t think McGee has not shown in Philadelphia since the Indelible Market show at the ICA Philadelphia in 2000.

That McGee should return to Philadelphia with this show and at Fleisher/Ollman is fitting, since Indelible Market was curated by Alex Baker, who is now the director of Fleisher/Ollman, and also included three artists with one foot in the art world and one foot in graffiti: McGee, Todd James and Steve Powers. If the name of that show and the artist line up sounds familiar, it’s because Indelible Market was the first in a series of historic installations including the same trio that have taken place in spaces including Deitch Projects and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (the others being called Street Market and Street, with Street also including Murphy and others).

Is it too much to hope that Baker can strike gold again? Maybe that’s asking too much and expecting too little. Not every show that Baker does in this format has to be historic to be interesting, and it’s unfair to let one show define his curatorial/directorial career. Still, I’m really looking forward to Department of Neighborhood Services. At the very least it’s three really interesting artists, including one who hasn’t show in Philadelphia in far too long.

Philly, don’t miss this thing.

Department of Neighborhood Services opens on Friday, April 11th from 6-8pm and runs through June 7th at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery.

Image courtesy of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery


Category: Gallery/Museum Shows | Tags: , , ,

Philly Tech Week talk about Viral Art

April 2nd, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Ted Talk

A piece of viral art. Click the here to understand why.

Okay, so I’m not quite speaking at TEDxPhiladelphia, but I am pretty excited to be giving a talk next week at AIGA Philadelphia‘s Old City headquarters/gallery, SPACE, as part of Philly Tech Week. The talk, Viral Art: Disruptions in the spectacle from spray paint to Google Bombs, will focus on some of the ideas found in my free ebook Viral Art.

I’ll be speaking about two main themes: 1. How the communication technologies from zines to books to the internet have affected the street art and graffiti that we see on walls and 2. How street art and graffiti are closely linked to hacking and net art. That will be followed by a Q&A, which I’m really looking forward to.

So if you’re in Philadelphia, I hope you’ll stop by SPACE on Thursday, April 10th. The event runs from 6-8pm. The talk is free, but you can RSVP here.

Photo courtesy of Evan Roth


Category: Events, Vandalog Projects | Tags: ,

Tim Hans shoots… Dan Witz

March 31st, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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Dan Witz is one of the original New York street artists, with almost 35 years of experience getting up. He’s also one of my favorite realist painters and pranksters. If you want to see some of Dan’s work in person, he’s got a solo show opening this week at Jonathan Levine Gallery‘s 529 West 20th Street space in New York City. Tim Hans met Dan at his studio for the latest in our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim. I asked Dan a few questions over email.

RJ: What’s the best prank (involving art or not) that you’ve ever pulled?

Dan Witz: Hmm-best? Hard to say: I mean most of my street stuff over the past 35 years could be described as pranks. I wouldn’t want to single out a winner, but probably the one that consistently gets the most ‘likes’ out of all my one-off pieces would be the clown face house in Brooklyn.

RJ: How did your work with Amnesty International come about and what keeps you working with them?

DW: They got in touch with me. Or, actually, an ad agency that was handling them in Germany reached out to me. Like most street artists I get a lot of e-mail probes from marketing types eager to link their product or cause with urban art. It’s been pretty easy for me to avoid this because my stuff works much better if I keep my identity, or “brand” as much under the radar as possible. When Amnesty International got in touch though, I was so honored and such a long-time supporter of theirs that I was willing to consider it. And I’d already been working with figures trapped behind grates in my WHAT THE %$#@? (WTF) series, so advocating for illegally detained prisoners was an easy fit.

I am so incredibly glad I opened up to this. The 20 or so Wailing Wall pieces in Frankfurt became one of the peak experiences of my career. Oddly, even with all the media frenzy (and the accompanying police attention) there was no pressure on me to compromise my normally aggressive installation tactics (these days, to avoid easy theft I anchor my grate pieces into the wall, which involves serious industrial adhesives and a hammer drill). It turns out that Amnesty international, despite its mainstream respectability, is a surprisingly bad-ass organization. They recognized that my methods, although illegal, were the most effective way to galvanize public attention. If anything they even pushed me to go larger and bolder than I usually do. I date a huge growth in my street practice to that first Amnesty project.

DanWitz_TimHans01

RJ: Whose artwork hangs in your home and why?

DW: There’s a rotating selection of friends’ work, a few copies of old master paintings I’ve done, (in gold frames, which really class the place up), and the usual magnetized refrigerator masterpieces from our two year old. I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying fooling around with the non-toxic kiddie art supplies. Don’t look for a new Crayola series from me or anything, but it’s reminded me how great it is to draw just for the fun of it

RJ: The kitschy artist Thomas Kinkade called himself a “painter of light,” but that description is probably more appropriate for you. What fascinates you about light in paintings?

DW: Didn’t that guy copyright or trademark the “Painter of Light” thing? And isn’t he like the best selling artist, ever? I’ve never seen one in real life but I bet they have a nice heartwarming glow. To be honest, not to put him down, but simulating light with oil paint isn’t really that hard to do. And yeah, like him (I’m guessing) I’ve never gotten over what a miracle it is. It’s magic. And addictive. Same for me with creating trompe l’oeil illusions of space. I never get sick of it. I guess I should be grateful to artists like Kinkade: if it wasn’t for them I might forget how easily these effects can turn into clichés.

RJ: What are you working on at the moment?

DW: As usual I’ve got a few projects simultaneously dead-lining in my studio. Right now, on easel one I’m preparing this summer’s street art; and easel two has my ongoing Mosh pit painting series. Most days I bounce back and forth—I get sick of one and take refuge in the other. But in a few weeks  I’ve got a show, NY Hardcore, opening at Jonathan Levine Gallery so we’re frantically varnishing and framing and e-mailing and packing. Fortunately my studio has a separate ‘dirty’ room in the garage downstairs so I can spray and do woodwork without endangering the artworks and my family’s health. But it’s out of control over here. Which used to be an unbearably stressful way to live, but I’ve gotten used to it, and sometimes (like now, answering these questions) I even get a brief moment to step back and appreciate how lucky I am to be so busy and have all this crazy shit going on.

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Photos by Tim Hans


Category: Featured Posts, Interview, Portraits by Tim Hans | Tags: , ,

Zoo Project, Parisian street artist, is dead at 23

March 29th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
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Photo by urbanartcore.eu

Some very sad news. Earlier this week, we posted about the graffiti at Detroit’s Brewster Projects. What we did not know at the time is that Zoo Project, a 23 year old street artist whose work is very well known in Paris, had been found murdered at the Brewster Projects last summer. His body has only just now been identified.

Photo by gildas_f

Photo by gildas_f

I remember seeing a lot of Zoo Project pieces around Paris the last time I was there. They seemed to be everywhere and they immediately caught my eye. Unfortunately, I’ve never been all that good about covering Parisian street art on Vandalog, and I absolutely failed to properly cover Zoo Project’s work while he was alive. The why of that is unimportant right now. Zoo Project was like a young Blu: Painting large pieces on the street in black and white or muted colors, commenting on society, politics and technology with surreal imagery… He will be greatly missed, and his death is a loss to street art. To make up in a very small way for me neglecting his work on Vandalog despite my admiration for it, here are a few Zoo Project pieces…

Photo by G@ttoGiallo

Photo by G@ttoGiallo

Photo by kayexalate

Photo by kayexalate

Photo by Gaël Chardon

Photo by Gaël Chardon

Photo by marcovdz

Photo by marcovdz

Photo by gillesklein

Photo by gillesklein

Photo by Béatrice Faveur

Photo by Béatrice Faveur

Photo by gillesklein

Photo by gillesklein

Photo by gillesklein

Photo by gillesklein

Photos by urbanartcore.eu, gildas_f, G@ttoGiallo, kayexalate, Gaël Chardon, marcovdz, gillesklein and Béatrice Faveur


Category: Art News, Photos | Tags:

BNE lies to his fans, sells a fake collaboration with Banksy

March 25th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

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UPDATE March 29th: BNE has updated his website and posted a statement claiming that Banksy and he had communicated about a shirt release, but that BNE decided to announce the shirt and make it available for sale before getting confirmation from Banksy that the collaboration was on. That logic is about as reasonable as me emailing Banksy and asking him about doing a solo show in my bedroom, and then announcing the show without hearing from Banksy. Because, why wouldn’t Banksy want to do a solo show in a college dorm in suburban Philadelphia?

BNE continues to resist the use of the word “scam” to describe what he did, but he fails to acknowledge the numerous lies that he told over the course of this “product launch,” from saying that he was collaborating with Banksy, to saying that he hadn’t sold people something that he presented as BNE x Banksy t-shirt, to saying that this whole thing was a “social experiment.” BNE doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge that at best he messed up by jumping the gun and then he flat out lied, and at worst he orchestrated a massive scam.

He also claims on his site that nobody who picked up on this story requested a comment from him. That’s not true, which I know because I emailed him and requested an interview. Maybe he missed my email, or maybe he ignored it. I don’t know.

But now BNE is offering refunds for those who request them (although I’m not sure how that will work since his PayPal account is frozen). I hope this time BNE gets my email, since I’ve emailed asking for a refund. I’ll be donating a portion of my refund to Living Walls and Give Directly.

BNE also says that he’s working to start a company that will sell a variety of basic necessities like sustainably made shampoo and t-shirts, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. That sounds like a great idea for a company. If I still trusted BNE, I would probably support that business. But it also sounds like a B-Corp, and there are plenty of B-Corps that I’m willing to put a lot more trust into than whatever BNE comes up with.

Saturday was supposed to be a great day. BNE, a graffiti writer who has been raising money for water-related charities (primarily Charity:Water) through BNE.org since late 2011. Most of the money raised has been through the sale of products like t-shirts, lip balm, original artwork and stickers. Earlier this month, BNE released t-shirts by Invader, Shepard Fairey and Faile, some of the biggest names in street art. Shortly after all of those sold out, BNE announced that “a surprise from Banksy in support of our efforts to end the world water crisis” would be unveiled on BNE.org at noon on March 22nd, and that people who helped spread the word of the announcement beforehand would be entered “to win a collaborative gift from BNE + Banksy.”

Well, that was all a lie. BNE was not working with Banksy, and the t-shirts (which cost $92 including shipping to the USA) that were released at noon on the 22nd on BNE’s website just a few pixels away from a large Banksy logo were not done in collaboration with Banksy at all. It was all a ploy, or as BNE called it “a social experiment,” to raise money for Charity:Water, relying on the idea that people would be more likely to contribute to charity if they get something like a t-shirt in return. People were understandably outraged when they discovered that they had not in fact bought the Banksy t-shirt that they thought they had paid for. There’s a lot more to this story and it’s all a bit crazy, but Animal New York have done some great reporting on it, and I highly encourage you to read their post about what happened.

As a fan of BNE’s charity work, someone who has supported in some small way just about every fundraising campaign BNE has organized and a victim of this trick, I’m pretty upset. I’m all for pranks in art. Hell, I’ve even fallen for some before and the responsible thing to do is laugh at yourself. But this was no prank. This was BNE turning on his supporters. He’s lost my trust, and I won’t be supporting his projects in the future (if he manages to get anything off the ground after this fiasco).

It’s unclear at this point what is going to happen to the money that BNE  got from his con. BNE donated the funds to Charity:Water almost immediately after the 500 t-shirts sold out, but it’s not clear that Charity:Water will be accepting his donation. At the same time, BNE promised Animal that he will be refunding every single buyer whether they specifically request it or not, but BNE’s PayPal account has been frozen.

While everything is in limbo for now, assuming that those of us who bought a shirt get our money back, I hope that a lot of it goes right back to charity. It’s easy to donate directly to Charity:Water, who were not involved in BNE.org and are only the recipients of BNE’s donation, and if you do want some great art in return for helping to fund a water-related charity, try this auction that Juxtapoz is involved with. This might also be a good time to mention the current fundraising campaign for the 2014 Living Walls Conference, which includes a matching grant from Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs so that your donation goes even further.

Again, this whole fiasco is fascinating and ongoing, but if you’re at all interested, you should read Animal’s post about what has happened so far, including exclusive comments from BNE.

Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, original photo by troykelly


Category: Art News | Tags: , , ,