Every time…

Banksy once said “‘Every time one of my friends borrows my ideas, mounts a huge art show and becomes a millionaire celebrity,’ a little bit of me wants him dead.” I’ll amend that to “Every time a street artist turns their back on their values, mounts a huge flyposting campaign and becomes what is essentially an advertising executive, a little bit of me wants to write over their work.”

But I suppose that’s the natural order of things.

Photo by Jake Dobkin

  • Couldn’t have put it better myself – agreed!

  • Yeah, it’s tricky – when does ‘street art’ become advertising? Has the line been crossed here? Maybe… probably. Is it a problem? Maybe… possibly. Do we make allowances for Banksy (well, it’s Banksy so it’s OK) that we wouldn’t for other artists? Maybe… probably 🙂

  • RJ

    Personally, I have no problem with Banksy going to LA and putting up pieces 24 hours before his film premiers in that city. That’s him doing his artwork and intertwining it with marketing. And I’d say it’s naive to think that Banksy isn’t always marketing himself.

    For me, the line is crossed when there is no artistic merit in what he is doing. Flyposting movie posters is not art; it’s pure advertising.

    But yeah, in the end it’s Banksy and he does much more good for the world than harm.

  • RJ

    And besides, he knows what he’s doing. Anybody is welcome to draw on those posters if they want to. It’s not like they are protected by anything.

  • Brilliant & I share your sentiment.

  • The crazy thing is that it’s a TINY poster campaign with a tiny amount in each city. The web makes it seem like it’s everywhere. It’s not. It’s tricky – How do you let people know there’s a movie in theaters? Posters do that. It’s a risk for Banksy for sure, but I admire the fact that he’s taking the risk. Standing still means that you are going nowhere. It’s so easy to say that someone is a sell out. It’s a lot harder to get people to know that there’s a film in the theaters.

  • RJ

    Thanks for joining the conversation Wooster.

    It may be a small campaign, but I don’t think the size is what is important here.

    Honestly I wouldn’t use the word sell out, I’d just say Banksy is being more transparent in his continued marketing efforts.

    Movie posters from Banksy are generally a weird combination, for sure, but I think the even more important thing here is that these are (presumably) illegally placed ads that have (in at least one spot in the UK) gone over graffiti and street art. Banksy’s rented out giant billboards before, why go the illegal, irritating and polluting route this time?

    Obviously you’re the marketing expert in this conversation, but surely a Banksy stencil or two as we’ve seen in LA is producing 10x better ROI than flyposting?

  • RJ

    Tabitha, thanks for your comments.

    I actually like Banksy’s art and I agree that he’s been essential to the growing popularity of street art world-wide. Just today, I posted two other things on this blog about Banksy. One was written by another blogger and I’d say it was positive, and the other was written by me and I’d say it was moderate to positive.

    I’ve got no problem with Futura or Kaws having clothing lines or D*face designing album cover or any of that. These people need to pay the bills after all. No shame in that, right? Hell, I’d make a clothing line if I had the design skills.

    And you’re completely right, some people (especially in the graffiti world) have gotten jealous of Banksy’s success and are dissing him for no legitimate reason.

    Just because lots of other artists use fly-posting doesn’t mean it’s right. It disappointed me when my friend Logan used it, it disappointed me when D*face used it and it disappoints me when Banksy uses it. But, in my eyes, Banksy one of the worst offenders. Not necessarily for the size of Banksy’s fly-posting campaigns, but because the campaigns seem to contradict the core principles that got him the place he is today.

  • eek

    I’ll help you any time!

  • Tabitha

    What is it with this Banksy slating bandwagon? The fact of the matter is that through his “selling out” the street art scene has become more mainstream, more accessible, and now many deserving artists are getting their work seen by many who would never usually have come across it. But we live in a world where it is easier to condemn pioneers – and yes I believe he is a pioneer, his work has opened many doors for many people and created a mini revolution within the art world – rather than commend them.

    As for having an issue with fly-posting, many artists do this to advertise their shows, Simon Thompson for example, did he “sell out” or do the rules differ when it comes to advertising shows rather that other forms of media?

    Not all of us were born with silver spoons in our mouths and have to work hard to get to where we want to go to; Banksy should be proud of the fact that he has done this, and that he’s enabled so many others to do the same.

  • Is he actually making any money from his film though? If you are criticising fly-posting because it is product promotion, surely it is only ‘evil’ if it is also the spearhead of some mega-polluting-exploiting corporation. If not, I don’t really see what the difference here is between fly-posting and wheatpasting.

    Secondly, the film title is an ‘ironic’ nod to the fact that art – and of course his art – have become objects we consume like any other, so surely the fly-posting makes perfect ‘ironic’ sense here too.

  • That’s the thing that annoys me. The stencils are enough, especially in these times of the internet and phone cameras, just look at how quick the LA pieces went round the World.

    I dunno, we are talking about it, whether in a positive or negative light so I can only say what he’s done has worked.

    I would have preferred the stencil route only though.

  • RJ

    To Adam: It’s not just about being profitable. It’s about the difference between art or some similar sort of public communication and advertising. If Shepard Fairey (who has a clothing brand relating to his flyposting campaigns in addiction to his fine art career) puts up an OBEY poster or two, those don’t require a product to provide context. Anybody can look at those and love or hate them completely aware or unaware of Shepard’s wider history. These Banksy posters do require a product to provide context (especially the UK versions, which specifically mentions that it is advertising a film). Without a film to promote, those posters would be entirely meaningless, and when you look a the posters, you can’t help think of the film. On the other hand, the stencils that Banksy has recently put up in Utah and LA would make sense with or without a film to promote.

    And yes, you could look at these posters as tagging on a bigger scale or an ironic twist, but personally I think that’s just making excuses for Banksy’s bad behavior.

  • RJ

    To Pahnl: In the charity auction example, it sounds like you’re asking “do the ends justify the means?”. Just like I have generally supported Exit Through The Gift Shop and encouraged people to see it, I don’t think I would completely turn my back on a charity auction just because they used fly-posting, but that wouldn’t make their actions right. To me, illegal fly-posting of advertisements is disdainful in just about any context.

    While it is possible that he is contractually obligated to have these posters put up, that seems odd since a. the posters are (probably) placed illegally and b. Banksy has essentially had a distribution company created just for this film specifically because he has a unique marketing style, so you hope the distributor would take that into account and not require fly-posting.

  • Daisytagger

    Wooster thanks for jumping in! Totally agree. Those who are quick to yell “sell out!” are usually incapable of being pioneers. Just bitter Betties. No creative bones. Just the average dog…peeing on the wall. Again.

  • Pahnl

    Perhaps it’s question of whether Banksy believes the film to be commercial or something else, a public message (of sorts) about (and to) street artists. If he doesn’t see it as a commercial venture, and who’s to say he didn’t sign another ‘one pence contract’, then it wouldn’t clash with his principles.

    This is perhaps not the right comparison but it’s the only one I can think of: would it be as disdainful if he was promoting a charity auction? I’m not saying this film is giving money to the poor, haha, but what if that’s the context he sees it within?

    And who’s to say it wasn’t a clause incorporated into the agreement to release the film? As vocally principled as Banksy is, I don’t think he’d let such a clause stop him from publishing the film.

    The posters themselves lack any wit or subversion, like a marketer’s attempt at imitation.

  • Indie bands do wild posters all the time. This is an indie film. So why not, Banksy? For me I get so frustrated when people want things to be either black or white. The most interesting people for me live in that grey area. They constantly confuse and keep you guessing. The bottom line is that there are only so many ways to raise awareness of the film. We all want people to see the movie. Flyer posters are one way to do it. It’s not that complicated actually.

  • eek

    I am a member of the public and I have been following Banksy’s work for over a decade…. the fact he is a good artist does not necessarily make him a person with integrity; he is just a human being like the rest of us and as we seen before money, success, fame and power can do strange things to our psyche.
    I think he is having a great big laugh at people’s stupidity and rightly so…. remember: “I can’t believe you morons buy this shit!”???
    I agree he is a pioneer….. instead of writing his name over and over on walls he brought a message and tried to open people’s eyes….
    But now he just feels like some who has too much power and can do what they want because they feel they are above everyone else which is a bit of a shame!
    Some of the people he is surrounded by came across as arrogant bullies who hang out in the most expensive London’s clubs…….a bit of a downer really…..but I guess that is not his fault?!?
    Lets not be completely fooled……… he is an amazing artist but he is not a super hero!
    He does not need to promote his film with flyposting…..or does he?
    And I promise I am not bitter or jealous……..just a little bit sad if anything.
    Too much hype for my type!!!

  • RJ

    And I don’t like it when indie bands or films do use flyposting. It actually turns me off the product. Their marketing campaigns don’t have respect for me, so why should I respect them enough to spend £10 to watch or listen to them on my valuable time? Admittedly, I could be an exception to the rule and there’s also probably some subconscious stuff going on when I see those ads.

    As for why not Banksy? Well Banksy has spoken and acted out against this sort of advertising. If you asked 100 people aware of Banksy’s work to come up with 10 things that he “stands for” or whatever, I bet that most of those people would include some sort of anti-advertising tenet on that list.

    Fauxreel doing work for Vespa was a grey area, I’m not sure that this instance is. But then again it’s entirely possible that I’m one of those old guys saying “boo! that’s not art!” who will look very silly in a few years when everybody decides flyposting is all good and it’s great art too.

    You’re definitely right though: We all want people to see the movie. We shouldn’t let a little disagreement get in the way of that. I’d just like to kindly bring up two more Banksy quotes that I’ve taken from Wall and Piece.

    “There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone thinks they’re an exception to the rules”


    “They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society, but graffiti is only dangerous in the minds 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 their stuff.”

    But yeah, in the end Exit is a good film and I hope lots of people see it.

  • 23456789

    See the comments from Drax and Canningtown1 to understand why London graffiti writers hate Banksy so much.


  • 5678908754

    Seems like some cult members urgently need de-programming. Maybe an intervention will be necessary. http://www.flickr.com/photos/45883295@N04/4502174467/#comment72157623856111726

  • Pingback: Post No Bills « Images to Live By()

  • Will

    It’s interesting in retrospect to see Wooster’s contribution to this conversation & knowing they were later shown to be part of the marketing campaign! I wonder how much they had to do with the postering? They certainly kept quiet about it in these comments.