Can you copyright graffiti? We’re about to find out

April 21st, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Rime's artwork (left) and a suit by Moschino (right)

Rime’s artwork (left) and a suit by Moschino (right)

Last year, the fashion designer Jeremy Scott quite obviously appropriated artwork by Rime for a capsule collection with the brand Moschino. The collection got a fair amount of attention when Katy Perry wore one of the dresses at the Met Gala, and Rime decided to sue Scott and Moschino for using his work (and his name, in the form of tags on other clothing in the collection).

This week, Moschino and Scott’s lawyers filed paperwork arguing that the lawsuit cannot possibly go forward. Why? Because graffiti cannot possibly be copyrighted. They say, “As a matter of public policy and basic logic, it would make no sense to grant legal protection to work that is created entirely illegally.”

First of all, it’s not entirely clear that the work was painted without permission, so that argument could be rendered moot pretty quickly. But part of me hopes that Rime’s Vandal Eyes was painted illegally, because that will be an interesting question for a court to take up.

In Australia, graffiti is protected by copyright, even if it was painted illegally. Enforcing that copyright can get tricky though, since the artist could still be arrested for vandalism. Why wouldn’t similar protections apply in the United States?

We’ll have the answer soon enough. Rime’s lawsuit is set to move forward in May.

HT to Brooklyn Street Art for spotting this story, and The Fashion Law for their more detailed article about it.

Photo from The Fashion Law


Category: Art News | Tags:

Placement makes perfect

April 20th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Os Gemeos in Milan. Photo by Os Gemeos.

Os Gemeos in Milan. Photo by Os Gemeos.

It’s no secret that good placement can make or break a piece or street art or a mural. That can mean picking the perfect place to install an artwork, or responding to the space that’s available and making something that takes that space into consideration. Think of it this way: Site-specific should mean the work is in some way specific to a site, not simply located at a site. And when art is site-specific, it can make a big difference. Recently, some artists practicing good placement have really caught my eye. Here are a few examples:

1. Os Gemeos in Milan (above): Wow. Milan is a lucky city right now, with a spectacular new mural by Os Gemeos, facilitated by Pirelli HangarBicocca. Responding to the shape of the site, Os Gemeos took a drab building and transformed it into a massive subway car. Os Gemeos’ murals are always a treat, but they knocked it out of the park with this one.

Invader in London. Photo by Butterfly.

Invader in London. Photo by Butterfly.

2. Invader in London: Simple, but effective, placing his mosaics around a CCTV camera. In some ways, quintessentially London.

Biancoshock in Milan. Photo by Biancoshock.

Biancoshock in Milan. Photo by Biancoshock.

3. Biancoshock in Milan: This series form Biancoshock seems to have really caught people’s attention on social media. I’ve been seeing these photos posted everywhere, so if you’re reading this, they probably aren’t new to you. But why are they so popular? Yes, I have a tiny apartment and can appreciate the joke too. But I think it’s more than that. Placement is an essential part of these pieces. If Biancoshock had made small rooms as sculpture for a gallery, or painted a tiny apartment on a wall, it wouldn’t have worked quite so well. It’s that he took a space and make work inspired by the location that simultaneously transformed the location.

Elian

Exercise Of Anamorphosis #2 by Elian. Photo by Elian.

4. Elian in Ostend with Exercise Of Anamorphosis #2: What happens when you get to a mural festival and you’re told that you aren’t painting a flat wall, but rather two walls of a building without a lot of flat surfaces? For some artists, this could trip them up. Or they could still treat the surface like they are applying wallpaper, and it would probably work out okay. But Elian went a step further, creating an optical illusion that messes with your perspective. He took something that could have been a weakness (an odd wall), and he made it a strength.

eL Seed in Cairo. Photo by eL Seed.

eL Seed in Cairo. Photo by eL Seed.

5. eL Seed in Cairo, for his Perception series: eL Seed painted this mural across dozens of buildings in Cairo, Egypt. It’s painted in a marginalized neighborhood in Cairo, where the residents are written off by the rest of the city as dirty because many of them are trash collectors. eL Seed’s text reads, “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.”

Photos by eL Seed, Butterfly, Biancoshock, Elian


Category: Featured Posts, Photos | Tags: , , , ,

Saving Banksy? A film about taking street pieces off the wall

April 18th, 2016 | By | 1 Comment »
Still from Saving Banksy

Still from Saving Banksy

This week, a curious film will premier at the Nashville Film Festival: Saving Banksy, a documentary about the legality, politics, and ethics of removing street art from the street, and what happens once you have a giant unauthenticated Banksy sitting in your garage. I’m curious to see how this turns out. If anyone is in Nashville this week and sees the film, let me know what you think. In the mean time, here’s the trailer:

For now, I’ll just add one thought about stealing/saving street art from the elements and the buff. Removing art off the street is a lot like an art theft. And not just because you’re stealing work from public view.

There’s a funny thing about art thefts: Usually, it’s not an inside job. Truth is, the heists are generally orchestrated by people who don’t quite know what they’re stealing. They just know it’s supposed to be valuable. Maybe they steal a painting that could be worth millions if it were sold legitimately at Sotheby’s. Except that stolen art is worth barely a fraction of non-stolen art, but stealing, transporting, and storing the art can be expensive.

Similarly, chopping up a wall to “save” a Banksy isn’t cheap. And then you have to ship it. And store it. And ship it again to where it might go on display. And to the buyer (if there is one). All the while, the vast majority of collectors would rather buy an authenticated painting than an unauthenticated piece with a shady history. Just because a giant authenticated Banksy canvas can go for $1,000,000 doesn’t mean that a similar street piece can be sold to anyone for any price. But by the time anyone figures that out, it’s too late. The piece is already off the wall and in private hands.

From what I’ve heard, Stealing Banksy touches on a similar point, which should be interesting to see play out on camera.

Still from the Stealing Banksy trailer


Category: Art News, Videos | Tags: ,

Murals for Bernie Sanders

April 17th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Nick Kuszyk's Bernie Sanders mural in Greenpoint. Photo courtesy of Nick Kuszyk.

Nick Kuszyk’s Bernie Sanders mural in Greenpoint. Photo courtesy of Nick Kuszyk.

Are you feeling the Bern? Artists definitely are. On Saturday night, Bernie Sanders stopped by The Hole in NYC to check out an art exhibition inspired by his campaign. Artists are also taking their love of Bernie to the street, with pro-Bernie murals popping up in Philadelphia and NYC (and probably other cities too, so let us know if you’ve seen others). Here’s a bit of what’s been going up…

Nick Kuszyk has painted two murals in Brooklyn. One (above) welcoming Bernie back to his hometown in anticipation of the New York primary (takes place on Tuesday!), and one highlighting Sanders’ commitments to criminal justice reform.

Nick Kuszyk for Bernie Sanders. Photo courtesy of Nick Kuszyk.

Nick Kuszyk for Bernie Sanders. Photo courtesy of Nick Kuszyk.

In Philadelphia, things started small. Brooks Bell painted a modest pro-Bernie mural on a candy store back in December. And then last month, Conrad Benner of StreetsDept brought together Old Broads and Distort for a huge mural that has quickly become a local icon.

Mural and photo by Brooks Bell.

Mural and photo by Brooks Bell.

Old Broads and Distort in Philadelphia. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Old Broads and Distort in Philadelphia. Photo by Conrad Benner.

And now, with just days until New York’s primary, a team of street artists, muralists, and graffiti writers came together for a bold Bernie mural in the Bronx. The piece was organized by Garrison Buxton and Alan Ket, designed by Noah McDonough, and painted by Garrison Buxton, Ces, DOC Tc5, Ewok One, John Fekner, Alan Ket, Noah McDonough, Queen Andrea, Part One, Python, and Rath.

Bernie in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of Garrison Buxton.

Bernie in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of Garrison Buxton.

New York’s primary is this Tuesday, April 19. Get out and vote (for Bernie)!

Photos courtesy of Nick Kuszyk and Garrison Buxton, and by Brooks Bell and Conrad Benner


Category: Featured Posts, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Bumfights to #BlackLivesMatter, Indecline exploits it all

March 27th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Still from Indecline's #BlackLivesMatter: Hollywood film

Still from Indecline’s #BlackLivesMatter: Hollywood film

Indecline, the street art collective known for their Rape Trump mural and the world’s largest illegal graffiti, are back at it with a #BlackLivesMatter-themed piece. Last week, they posted a video of their team creating some custom stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, applying the names of eight black men and women who have been killed by police to unused stars. Indecline called the action #BlackLivesMatter: Hollywood and gave the hashtag a shoutout at the end of their video.

Except that Indecline is more than just a street art collective. They are also the team behind the controversial Bumfights video series. If you’re not familiar with Bumfights, think Jackass, except with homeless men paid $10 per stunt. Oh, and in 2014, Indecline stole human remains from a hospital and tried to ship them from Thailand to the USA.

And now, from the assholes who brought you Bumfights, here comes some vaguely political street art:

Did you notice those circles glued immediately below the names Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Oscar Grant, Kimani Gray, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones? That was Indecline’s logo. Rather than working as allies and making work in support of #BlackLivesMatter (like you can find at Artists Against Police Violence), Indecline is stamping their logo on the movement.

This latest video and their history of being terrible (which I wasn’t aware of before now) has me taking another look at some of Indecline’s greatest street art hits. Their Wheel of Misfortune is meant as an attack on banks for making people homeless and puting them in hopeless and difficult situations, what about the homeless men who had the misfortune of working for Indecline? This Land Was Our Land was painted in an area that was once home to Native Americans, but it was signed “Indecline,” aka a white kid and his friends. And Rape Trump suddenly feels like an excuse to make a rape joke on a road trip to Mexico.

Indecline is not activism. It’s a brand exploiting political activism, and a history of systematic injustices faced by people of color, for amusement and self-promotion. Indecline is guys attaching themselves to a life-or-death movement for shits-and-giggles.

Still and video by Indecline


Category: Videos | Tags: ,

Bologna street artists support Blu with an exhibition on the street

March 27th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Nemo on Bologna. Photo by @around730.

Nemo on Bologna

Street artists in Bologna, Italy are taking to the street in support of Blu, who recently organized a mass-buffing of his murals in Bologna. About 50 Italian street artists have taken over an abandoned space and covered it in fresh art. Brooklyn Street Art has the full story and more photos from the pop-up exhibition.

The mass-buffing was Blu’s response to an exhibition that has put the remains of one of his street pieces on display. Rather than allow his murals to be ripped from walls and displayed in what he considers an inappropriate context, Blu decided to remove all of his murals from the city. One major criticism that has been leveled at Blu, unfairly I think, is that buffing his own art was a spiteful response to the exhibition, depriving the public of popular murals. Hopefully, the critics who might have seen Blu’s protest as childish can appreciate dozens of Italian street artists coming together to make new street art in solidarity with Blu’s action.

Photo by @around730


Category: Art Fairs | Tags: ,

Philadelphia kicks of spring with new ad busts

March 27th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Joe Boruchow. Photo by Conrad Benner.

Spring has sprung in Philadelphia, and the local street art community seem to be celebrating with new ad takeovers in the city’s bus shelters. Thanks to Jordan Seiler / Public Ad Campaign’s Public Access initiative, opening the advertising kiosks in the vast majority of Philly’s bus shelters is a breeze. Just this week, Joe Boruchow and NDA, both of whom we’ve recently shown at LMNL Gallery, replaced a few ads with their own artwork. NDA’s pieces were both collaborations with Hellbent, who promises similar work in New York City soon.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of Hellbent.

Jordan Seiler was the first artist in recent memory to bring ad takeovers to Philadelphia, back in 2010. And until last summer, that’s about all there was, until Seiler made the Philadelphia infinitely easier to open up by producing a “key” that matched their custom security screws. Vandalog contributor Caroline Caldwell was probably the first to test out a Philadelphia key. Since then, the tools have reached a handful of artists in the city.

Public Access "keys" by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.

Public Access “keys” for various cities by Jordan Seiler. Photo by Jordan Seiler.

Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.

Joe Burochow. Photo by Thomas Buildmore.

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA

NDA and Hellbent. Photo courtesy of NDA

Unfortunately, it looks like this new-found street art surface may be short lived in Philadelphia. Hundreds of the city’s bus shelters are being replaced with an upgraded model featuring electronic billboards. With that in mind, for those with keys, here’s to making good use of them while you still have a chance.

Photos by Conrad Benner, Jordan Seiler, and Thomas Buildmore, and courtesy of NDA and Hellbent


Category: Photos | Tags: , , , , ,

John Fekner on Blu, Bologna, and the nature of street art

March 17th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Once the site of a mural by Blu in Bologna, now buffed by Blu and his team. Photo from blublu.org.

Once the site of a mural by Blu in Bologna, now buffed by Blu and his team. Photo from blublu.org.

Last week, we covered Blu‘s protest in Bologna, where he and a team of helpers buffed out all of his murals in the city (and some now face legal issues as a result). They were protesting an exhibition, Street Art – Banksy & Co., which includes murals by Blu that were removed off the streets of Bologna and are being exhibited against his wishes. I called on people to boycott the exhibition. However, the response from the street art community has been more mixed, with many supporting Blu, and others suggesting that Blu has acted like a petulant child. The exhibition opens today, so we’ll soon see how the public responds, and (as the show’s lead curator Christian Omodeo insists we hold our breath for) what the controversial mural remnants look like in the museum.

In the meantime, John Fekner, whose work is included in Banksy & Co. (as is the work of his long-time collaborator Don Leicht), reached out and shared his reactions with Vandalog. Fekner is a key historical figure in street art, a pioneer as a stencil artist with an unimpeachable record as a political artist and an artist’s artist.

John Fekner

John Fekner’s Slow Down Children Growing (right) and Burning Tech, Factory & John Wayne Cowboy tagged on Barbara Kruger Billboard. Spray paint & stencil, London England 1988. Photo courtesy of John Fekner/Artangel.

From Fekner:

  • Whether you stole a pencil from your schoolmate, or a lover from your best friend, or a stapler from work, the cold-hearted facts remain: everyone steals. We exist in a confusing and twisted reality of unscrupulous financial gain and artistic theft.
  • If you create rock, punk, rap or any other type of music, there’s no way of stopping some Muzak elevator-friendly dispirited interpretation of your original rebellious music.
  • If you originally aspired to be an underground artist; then just stay underground. Similarly, if you’re a musician, don’t get pissed off if a fan asks you to sign a copy of your cutout vinyl album that they bought for a buck or less.
  • In the 80s, low brow thieves literally ripped Keith Haring’s chalk drawings from subway advertising spaces and entrepreneurial high brow scoundrels ripped off New York City urban kids’ graffiti sketches for pennies.
  • The bottom line is: what’s done in public-doesn’t remain in public. There’s no protection for artists who trespass. It’s the chance one take outdoors.
  • If you create illegal art murals, street rules are always in effect:
    1) You can’t stop a drunk in the middle of the night from pissing on your wall.
    2) You can’t stop a bulldozer from razing your work.
    3) You can’t stop a neighborhood anti-graffiti squad from painting over your work.
    4) You can’t stop a well-dressed thief in a suit, or their hired slug with a chisel, from removing your wall work and hauling it off to their lair, garage, museum or art market.
  • Under any circumstances, don’t immediately and irrationally react. If your original aspirations were to be an artist- then just do what you were meant to do: be an artist. Don’t double shift and be a night watchman patrolling the streets to try and thwart thieves of your work. Unique temporary outdoor creations engendered a public conversation that includes everyone: art lovers and art haters, lowbrow and highbrow, and everyone who interacts with your public work.
  • If you analyze and then destroy your creations; that’s an overreaction. Courageous? Yes. But it goes beyond your original spirit, freedom and joy of creating your work. It might potentially backfire and flame unquenchable desires for something else: more acceptance, more branding, more visibility, more publicity, more interviews, more legendary status, etc. It’s tricky.
  • The rip-off and resale of an artist’s artwork continues long after the artist is gone. If the artist doesn’t erase it in his/her lifetime, there’s a good chance that the corrupt art world of bankers, developers, board of directors, scholars, academicians, curators or art history itself, will erase you.

Photos courtesy of Blu and John Fekner/Artangel


Category: Art News, Guest Posts | Tags: ,

David Choe on the beauty of Banksy’s anonymity

March 14th, 2016 | By | No Comments »
Banksy's work in Bristol

Banksy’s work in Bristol

“Are you an asshole?”

That’s the question David Choe asked last week in an essay (which is very NSFW) on his blog. The piece, Why Saving Banksy Means Saving Yourself, is a must-read. David Choe is generally not the best arbiter of who is or is not an asshole, but in this instance, he’s spot on: No good comes from trying to reveal Banksy’s identity, or wondering who Banksy is.

Whenever a news story comes out saying “We’ve finally proven that Banksy is X,” or, “Banksy’s married and his partner is Y,” or “Banksy is a woman,” or whatever story about Banksy’s identity the media wants to promote this week, I have two reactions. My first reaction is to laugh. Something about the search feels ridiculous to me. It misses the point of Banksy, like watching a magic show from side stage while someone whispers in your ear how every trick is done. But then I get sad, because one TMZ-quality reporter desperate for clicks could ruin something for the entire world. Those journalists, whether their claims are right or wrong, are no better than the drunk mall Santa who spill the beans to little kids.

The next time an article comes out claiming to reveal Banksy’s identity, don’t be an asshole. Don’t click. Instead, read David Choe’s thoughts on the matter.

Photo by Walt Jabsco


Category: Random | Tags: ,

The Grey Revolt: Blu and friends return Bologna’s walls to the public, with buff

March 12th, 2016 | By | 1 Comment »
Blu's work being buffed in Bologna, Italy

Blu’s work being buffed in Bologna, Italy

Fuck the buff! Fuck the theft, love the buff!

Because Bologna’s wealthiest citizens and the powers-that-be cannot be trusted with street art, Blu and a crew of volunteers are in the process of buffing all of his murals in Bologna, Italy. Next week, a detestable exhibition opens in Bologna that will include chopped up murals by Blu and other street artists. The artists did not consent to the removal of their work, and, at least in Blu’s case, they are not happy about having it mangled and exhibited out of context. It also doesn’t help that the exhibition is backed by a large bank and shady Bologna power-brokers. In response, Blu has organized a mass buffing to remove all of his work, 20 years worth, from Bologna’s streets.

Blu has buffed his own work before, when property developers in Berlin were using his mural to sell condos. That was one mural. This time, it’s every one of his murals in an entire city. And it makes sense. Blu’s murals art anti-state, anti-bank, environmentalist, anti-capitalist, pro-activist… certainly not made to make bankers and career politicians look good. To remove these murals and exhibit them in this exhibition is to completely upend their meaning and importance. It’s a disgrace.

The must-read full story of what’s happening in Bologna, as well as the political context of the mural and the exhibition, including the can be found here. A few choice quotes from that article:

This exhibition will embellish and legitimise the hoarding of art taken off the street, which is only going to please unscrupled collectors and merchants.

This “street art” exhibition is representative of a model of urban space that we must fight, a model based on private accumulation which commodifies life and creativity for the profits of the usual few people.

After having denounced and criminalised graffiti as vandalism, after having oppressed the youth culture that created them, after having evacuated the places which functioned as laboratories for those artists, now Bologna’s powers-that-be pose as the saviours of street art.

The people who take this action don’t accept that yet another shared asset is appropriated, they don’t want yet another enclosure and a ticket to buy.

On his blog, Blu has written a brief statement about the buffing: “In Bologna, there is no more Blu, and there will be no more while the tycoons speculate [on street art]. For acknowledgments or complaints, you know who to contact.”

Online, the international street art community has largely been echoing Blu’s statement and supporting the mass buffing:

  • Andreco, who helped buff Blu’s murals, said, “Deciding which wall to paint or not paint has always been one of our free choice. This operation, to uncork the walls and move them elsewhere, oversteps this freedom.”
  • Living Walls’ Mónica Campana said, “It’s been a fun ride y’all, but this is over.”
  • Nuart’s Martyn Reed said, “Go Blu,” and called the action “one of Street’s Art’s most audacious and important moves in recent times.”

Blu’s mass-buffing is unfortunate, but admirable and necessary. The murals will be missed, but his action helps ensure that Bologna’s public spaces are for the people of Bologna, not the profit of Bologna’s elite. Bologna’s curators and elites deserve only grey walls. Bologna’s people deserve this massive reset button, which returns public space to the public and creates an opportunity for the next generation counter-cultural content.

As fans, the only respectable action is to support Blu and the people of Bologna by boycotting the Museo della Storia di Bologna’s “street art exhibition.”

Photo by Andreco


Category: Art News, Featured Posts | Tags: ,