The new Banksy(s)

April 17th, 2014 | By | No Comments »
hme2

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:

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

March 25th, 2014 | By | No Comments »

bne

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: , , ,

Results: Street works by Banksy, Kenny Scharf and more at auction

February 18th, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
Do you have a bathroom in need of some "urban' decor? Look no further.

Do you have a bathroom in need of some “urban’ decor? Look no further. This piece failed to sell, so maybe it can still be yours. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore using photos from Fine Art Auction Miami and by Leyla Arsan.

Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house that almost sold Banksy’s “Slave Labour” and “Wet Dog” pieces in 2013, is back at trying to sell street pieces. This time though, it’s not just Banksy’s whose street art and murals that they’ve put on offer. In an auction that took place this evening, FAAM have included cut up segments of concrete and metal that were removed from the street and contain what were once works by Banksy, Faile, Kenny Scharf, Bambi, Aiko and Terror161/J.SON. I say that these chunks of the street include what were once street pieces by those artists because the pieces have been removed from the street, destroying the context of the work. Kind of selling a ripped apart corner of the Mona Lisa. In Bambi’s case, it appears that she has given permission for the work to be removed and sold, so maybe that’s still her artwork. J.SON was unaware of the sale of the piece of metal containing his former artwork, but I do not have comments from the other artists, though I find it highly unlikely that they approved of the removal of those wall segments or this auction. Yesterday, Caroline posted an interview with FAAM’s resident street art expert, and today we have the auction results…

Below, I’ve got coverage of the street pieces that were up for sale, but it wasn’t just street pieces for sale. If you want to see more highlights, I was live tweeting the auction, so you can read some of the other results on my twitter or here.

Read the rest of this article »


Category: Art News, Auctions, Featured Posts, Photos | Tags: , , , , , ,

Interview with a “street art expert”

February 17th, 2014 | By | 6 Comments »
Banksy Bandaged

“Bandaged Heart Balloon”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) will be hosting an auction that includes pieces by BanksyFaileKenny Scharf, BambiAiko and Terror161/J.SON that have been pulled (sawed, ripped, unscrewed, hammered off, etc.) from the street and brought to the auction house in Miami. Two pieces from Banksy’s recent NYC residency “Better Out Than In” are up for auction, including a car door from the Crazy Horse installation, and the bandaged heart balloon. You can have a look at the full catalog here (warning: it’s a PDF) or go here to follow the auction live.

Some of you might be thinking “Hey, those were for the public to enjoy!” or “Why should an unaffiliated auction house profit from the work/legal risks of these artists?” Good questions. But consider this… Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a literal piece of New York City from the safety of their home?

Ethical qualms aside, FAAM contacted Vandalog with an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up: An interview with the auction house’s official “street art expert” Sebastien Laboureau of Moonstar Fine Art Advisors. Since many published authors and curators with extensive knowledge of street art and graffiti still don’t consider themselves experts, I decided to see what I could learn from a real street art expert…

Caroline Caldwell: At what point would a street artist be considered a ‘sell out’? If possible, provide examples.

Sebastien Laboureau, Street Art Expert: Art has a market, and street artists also sell their works, as long as artists stay true to their personal style and create from their hearts the concept does not apply. Recently many works from street artists sell at auctions, and in galleries because this art is contemporary and talks to a wide audience and public. Banksy is the leading street artist, and he sells hundreds of works everywhere in the world every year at increasing prices.

CC: The Banksy’s “Bandaged Heart Balloon” from her residency in New York City is a portion of the wall that was physically removed and transported to Miami. How do you suggest or imagine people display large pieces like this in their homes?

Expert: Street art is amazing in the way that there is no set medium, street artists can work on canvas, metal, walls, doors. The beauty of it is to keep it in its original medium, we find that collectors enjoy buying and displaying street art because it feels like the work is created in their home.

What "" might look like in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

What “Crazy Horse Car Door” might look in a home. Photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, using photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman.

CC: How much of the art available in this auction was actually relocated from the street to the auction house?

Expert: Quite a few came directly from the streets, including two Banksy walls, a metal roll down gate by Kenny Scharf, and another large security gate by Lady Aiko & Terror 161. The great thing about these works is most of them were created in the street and will live a second life now. They will be preserved for eternity.

CC: If a street artists paints work on a canvas, should it be considered ‘street art’ or just ‘art’?

Expert: I do not feel the need to differentiate between the two, all is art, street art is art regardless medium it is created on.

CC: What is the difference between a ‘street art’ and a mural?

Expert: Street art is a style of painting and a mural is large scale work done on a building, one is genre and other is a medium.

"Kissing Coppers"

“Kissing Coppers”. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Who was the first authentic street artist to refer to themselves as a “street artist”?

Expert: The reality is that street art has always been around us. Some say street art was born in the late 70’s in New York City through graffiti art in public places. Some called it vandalism, some are still calling it vandalism… THIS IS ART!

CC: Should street artists in New York have NYC at the end of their Instagram handle?

Expert: Street artists should have any handle they please, to show where they have come from or where they are working.  New York City is very active in street art, but Miami has also become a street art mecca, with so many murals painted over the past year with an incredible quality and concentration in the Wynwood District. Street art is everywhere, in the London suburbs, in Barcelona, Paris, everywhere! And even in museums now.

CC: Would it be advantageous for street artists to align their personal brands with current trends in urban wear?

Expert: Historically, street art has been linked to hip hop. Fashion has always been intertwined with art. There is no limitation into what can and should be done!

CC: Is illegal street art graffiti?

Expert: It is still illegal in many parts and areas of the world, but more and more artists have been granted areas where they can create their works. Art is above any law, as art is life! Art pertains to our everyday life, and everywhere I look when I see art I see beauty.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.40.00 PM

Lady Aiko & Terror 161 on a metal gate originally located on the street in Wynwood, Miami. Photo courtesy of FAAM.

CC: Should there be a different word for street artists who are female?

Expert: There are more and more female street artists. We have great examples at our auction including Bambi and Swoon. Swoon has a museum show set-up in the Brooklyn Museum in April. Kazilla is a very talented street artist from the Wynwood who will be showing works and has brought local street artists together for the exhibition. There are many others! Once again, it makes no difference! ART IS ART!

CC: How long do you need to do the street arts before you’re considered a street artist?

Expert: There is no lead-time. A street artist is an artist that happens to use the streets as their canvas, there is no school. Some artists are better than others, but once again, there is no diploma to become a street artist!

CC: What’s the best city to get blog coverage in?

Expert: Miami is now becoming the street art mecca! But street art is everywhere in the world now.

Photos courtesy of Fine Art Auctions Miami (FAAM) and photo illustration by RJ Rushmore, featuring photos courtesy of FAAM and by Bart Speelman


Category: Auctions, Featured Posts, Interview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Viral Art is now available at ViralArt.net

December 16th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

viralartcover-640

Two weeks ago, I announced that Viral Art: How the internet has shaped street art and graffiti, my new ebook, was set to launch on December 16th. Excerpts have appeared on Hyperallergic, Complex.com and Brooklyn Street Art, I was interviewed over at Graffuturism and the book even got a shout-out from Shepard Fairey. Well, today’s the day. Viral Art is live and you can read it now at ViralArt.net and download it as a PDF or find it in the iBooks Store now.

I want to thank everyone who has been sharing the news about Viral Art these last two weeks, especially everyone who supported the Thunderclap campaign. Just this afternoon, there have been over 200 posts about Viral Art across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. So, a big thank you to everyone who participated in that. Promoting this book is an entirely grassroots effort, and I’ll be forever grateful for your help.

In case you didn’t catch that last post or you’ve forgotten, here’s a reminder of what Viral Art is all about…

What is Viral Art?

It’s an ebook that you can read online or download to your computer or ereader. It’s full of text, hyperlinks, photos, animated GIFs and embedded videos.

What is Viral Art about?

Viral Art traces how the histories of street art and graffiti have been shaped by communication technologies, from trading photos by hand to publishing books to sharing videos online. It’s the most comprehensive look to date at how the internet has affected street art and graffiti. Conceptualizing the internet as a public space, I conclude the book by arguing that the future of street art and graffiti may lie in digital interventions rather than physical ones.

Why does Viral Art matter?

If you want to understand street art and graffiti, you have to understand how books, movies, magazines, photographs and the internet have affected artists and fans. Viral Art gets into all of that.

Today we live on our laptops and smartphones, so I argue that the best way for street art and graffiti to stay relevant is for artists to take over the public space of the internet. It’s a claim sure to cause controversy in the street art, graffiti and internet art communities.

Viral Art isn’t just another street art book cheer-leading the movement on. It’s history and theory with a critical stance, and my plea to keep the core values of street art and graffiti alive in a digital world.

What else is inside?

In researching for this project, I interviewed over 50 members of the street art and graffiti communities. In Viral Art, you’ll find brand new interviews, quotes and anecdotes from Banksy, Shepard Fairey, KATSU, Poster Boy, Ron English, Martha Cooper and many more.

Another cool touch is the cover, which you can see at the top of this post. It’s an animated GIF designed by General Howe, featuring artwork by Diego Bergia, General Howe and Jay Edlin, as well as photographs by Martha Cooper and myself.

What does this “book” cost?

Nothing. You can read Viral Art for free at ViralArt.net. There are also PDF and EPUB versions available for download.

How can fans support the book?

This book is the result of two and a half years of mostly-unpaid labor. It’s being self-published. My marketing budget consists of a few bucks for ads on Facebook. Major publishers spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars marketing everything they produce, but this project has no book tour or publicist or anything like that. There’s only your support. If Viral Art sounds interesting, or you read it and you think it is interesting, please tell your friends.

Where can people read Viral Art?

Just go here to read it online, or you can also download it to your computer or ereader.


Category: Books / Magazines, Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Melbourne Monthly Madness – October 2013

December 4th, 2013 | By | 2 Comments »

This post is super late but definitely worth sharing with you all. I have been flat out working on the 2nd and final installment of ALL YOUR WALLS (last Wednesday through Friday – which was a HUGE success, I’ll be doing a full post on that soon). October’s post is short and sweet with some amazing content. Take some time to watch the videos and check out some of the awesome pics below.

This interview from Upstart Magazine with Australian stencil artist Damien Mitchell is a great way to start (Damien now lives in Brooklyn NYC). Damien gives a good insight into Melbourne’s scene and some great shots of some of the city’s best spots for street art and graff. Being a dog lover I’m a huge fan of the story behind the dog stencil.

This great short doco reappeared on vimeo after a long time in hiding. Melbourne Ink was filmed back in 2008 by Julien Sena and Romain Levrault while visiting from France. The video features the work of and interviews with some of Melbourne’s best artists; right in the midst of the massive explosion of street art in our city. Big ups to Fletch for the link!

Melbourne Ink from romain levrault on Vimeo.

Seeing this music video was a great surprise. Australian band Spiderbait recently released the music video for the track ‘It’s Beautiful’ (from their self titled album). A great video showing off some of Melbourne’s best lane ways and featuring the work of many Melbourne street artists and some music by a rad band.

Miso’s latest show ‘Bright Night Sky’ at Backwoods Gallery was amazing to say the least! Each piece created with a series of intricate pin pricks that come together to form beautiful pieces. Sold out before it opened, nice! These great shots show off some of her work and the awesome installation (in particular the fish eye shot).

Miso - Photo by Dreaded Cat Studios

Miso. Photo by Dreaded Cat Studios.

Miso - Photo by David Russell

Miso. Photo by David Russell.

Miso - Photo by David Russell

Miso – Photo by David Russell

My friend Lou Chamberlin launched her new book “Street Art Melbourne” in Hosier lane. Lou has been collecting shots of Melbourne’s amazing street art in our streets and lanes for the last 6 years or so, and the result is this great new book, showcasing some of Melbourne’s best artists alongside interstate and international visitors. Lou also invited a bunch of artists down and provided some paint to help colour the lane. I was asked to write the forward for the book which I was happy to do. Check out some of the work painted on the day here. You can preview the book and grab a copy here.

Lou Chamberlin - Street Art Melbourne Launch

Street Art Melbourne Launch. Photo by David Russell.

Kirpy painted his iconic Metcard stencil at Revolver. A common sight around Melbourne a few years ago, before it was replaced by the latest ticketing system. If you don’t get why it’s ripped then you probably won’t appreciate the stencil as much 😉 I love the crispness of the stencil against the texture of the wall, it sort of looks like it’s floating.

Kirpy - Metcard - Revolver

Kirpy’s Metcard at Revolver

Reka painted this awesome mural in San Francisco – a mad piece. He also did a great interview on the local news.

Reka - San Francisco

Reka – San Francisco. Photo by Reka.

Reka - San Francisco

Reka – San Francisco. Photo by Reka.

He also painted in Portland this Autumn themed wall, titled “The Fall”. I’m really loving the direction James is taking with his work, to me it seems like he is incorporating more traditional shapes and objects meshed with his awesome style that we know and love!

Reka - The Fall - Portland

Reka – The Fall – Portland. Photo by Reka.

Reka - The Fall - Portland

Reka – The Fall – Portland. Photo by Reka.

This recap of Project 5 in Sydney, featuring Rone and Adnate from Melbourne. A great little project with Rone, Adnate, Numskull and Jodee Knowles. All proceeds from the works went towards supporting a great charity (ICE). A good close up of the live work and interviews with the artists.

David Russell’s “Through the Lens” for October brings the goods from around town, as usual. Here’s some of my faves.

RESUME - Photo By David Russell

RESUME. Photo By David Russell.

Facter - Photo By David Russell

Facter. Photo By David Russell.

Slicer - Photo By David Russell

Slicer. Photo By David Russell.

And to finish up a couple of rippers from Dean Sunshine’s Top Ten.

Taylor White - Photo by Dean Sunshine

Taylor White. Photo by Dean Sunshine.

Two One and Senekt - Photo by Dean Sunshine

Two One and Senekt. Photo by Dean Sunshine.

Adnate - Photo by Dean Sunshine

Adnate. Photo by Dean Sunshine.

Photos courtesy of Dean Sunshine, David Russell, Dreaded Cat Studios and Reka.

Video Courtesy of Ambush Gallery, Upstart Magazine, Romain Levrault and Spiderbait.


Category: Gallery/Museum Shows, Interview, Photos, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On the Separation Wall in Bethlehem: Seth, BrotloseKunst, How and Nosm, Banksy & more

December 1st, 2013 | By | 2 Comments »
On the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall -- as seen inside Bethlehem

On the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall — as seen inside Bethlehem

I had last visited Bethlehem in 2008. Few of the pieces I saw then on the Separation Wall or in the city itself remain. The wall and its surrounding environs continue, though, to serve as a canvas for a range of – largely political – art. Here’s a bit of what my son and I captured during our recent visit:

French artist Julien "Seth" Malland

French artist Julien “Seth” Malland

Julien "Seth" Malland

Julien “Seth” Malland’s poignant boy amidst the rubble

Germany's BrotloseKunst brings colorful writing to a dismal space

Germany’s BrotloseKunst brings colorful writing to a dismal space; close-up of a huge piece

Sam3 and Erica il Cane

Sam3 and Erica il Cane

How and Nosm

How and Nosm

And still there -- Banksy

And still there — Banksy

 Photos by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Lois Stavsky


Category: Photos | Tags: , , , , , ,

Juxtapoz and Complex miss Banksy’s uniqueness, celebrate his sameness

November 27th, 2013 | By | No Comments »
While I doubt anyone in that crowd is Banksy, they're all participating in Banksy's artwork. Photo by Ray Mock.

While I doubt anyone in that crowd is Banksy, they’re all participating in Banksy’s artwork. Photo by Ray Mock.

These last few weeks, I’ve been processing Banksy‘s Better Out Than In residency project and reading what other people have had to say it about it. Now, some mainstream media outlet like Forbes writes a silly article about Banksy and focuses almost entirely on money using numbers pulled from thin air, I understand. And hey, Jerry Saltz isn’t a fan or someone with a background in street art or graffiti, so of course his list ranking the pieces in Better Out From In from terrible to less terrible is a somewhat ridiculous. What really upsets me is when writers on media outlets that should know better miss the point entirely. Two articles in particular, in Juxtapoz’ print edition and on Complex’s website, struck me as particularly off-base.

The latest issue of Juxtapoz arrived in my email inbox on November 12th, so it’s very possible that Nick Lattner wrote at least the majority of his article before Banksy finished Better Out Than In, which is just the unfortunate reality of print journalism from time to time I suppose. If that was the case, I understand why Lattner went for writing about Banksy’s use of social media during Better Out Than In than the works in the show. Or maybe it was an attempt to stand out among the hundreds of blogs and magazines doing round ups of the top X pieces in the show. Whatever his reasoning, Lattner tries to argue that the real brilliance of Better Out Than In is how Banksy showed “a mastery of [his] command” of social media and the internet for getting his work out there. Lattner praises Banksy’s use of an Instagram account, a website and a hotline for audio-descriptions-by-phone.

None of that was innovative. It might have been cool, but it was not new. Cost and Revs listed a working phone number on their wheatpastes in the 1990’s. Banksy has had a website for years, as have most serious street artists, and Banksy was late to the game joining Instagram. Was it a surprise to see Banksy on “social media” networks? Sure. But only because he’s anti-social. And once on Instagram, he used it to push out content, not to engage. What Banksy did by putting his work on his website and posting it to Instagram was not innovative. It was simply not being stupid, assuming he wanted as many people as possible to see his work. Why is Lattner applauding a lack of stupidity like it’s a stroke of genius?

Similarly, Leigh Silver over at Complex.com wrote an article with the headline Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” Took Place on the Internet, Not the Streets. I’m very pleased to see Silver writing something of such substance on Complex and she connects the show to a larger narrative about street art and graffiti online that I think is important to understand, but I disagree with her somewhat. Basically, she argues the same thing as Lattner with regard to Banksy: That the noteworthy aspect of Better Out Than In was that Banksy was posting this photos online. That’s where most people saw the Better Out Than In, and it helped to “preserve” the show in a sense by allowing it to be seen in photos even after the work was tagged over or otherwise destroyed. That’s all true, but I wouldn’t say that’s what was noteworthy about Better Out Than In.

On the one hand, with a book on basically the topic of street art and the internet coming out soon, I’m excited that other people have picked up on this shift. That said…

  • Even Silver admits that this has been the modus operandi of other street artists for years. It isn’t like Banksy just suddenly invented the idea of people seeing street art online.
  • Banksy himself has done work that’s made to be seen on the internet before (for example).
  • Seeing the work online was an option, but it’s not what Better Out Than In was about. Banksy is more interesting than that.

We need more people like Silver, people who suggest that “maybe ‘getting up’ is not on the streets anymore; it’s on social media,” but it seems odd to cite Better Out Than In as a prime example of that mindset. While there were a handful of pieces in the show that were meant to be seen online or really only existed online, there were many more pieces that were intended to be seen in person. Many of the best pieces in Better Out Than In begged for, or even required, crowd interaction to be activated and seen as complete. Here are the ones I’m thinking of:

  1. This is my New York accent – Perfect placement for people to crouch down and take photos while flashing fake gang signs.
  2. You complete meDogs peed on it.
  3. Truck delivering “calm” – This truck was supposed to be delivering calm, but really it delivered endless chaos as fans chased it down the street and crowded around for a photo.
  4. Balloon heart – You mean to tell me photos like this one weren’t the point of this piece? Oddly, this is a piece that Lattner cites as one of his favorites.
  5. Banksy beaver – Maybe crowds weren’t intended as essential to this piece, but Lattner cites this video as evidence that the show had a focus on digital experiences, which is ridiculous since the video only exists due to the actions of people at the site of the piece.
  6. Sirens of the lambs – Yes, the video of this piece is great, but it’s one of those pieces where the experience is 10x better in person.
  7. Confessional – Again, this is about the crowd staging photographs. Yes, those photos are shared online, but a crowd needs to be there away from keyboard as the first step.
  8. Central Park stencil sale – Even this piece, which it seems no hardcore Banksy fans saw in person, required some crowd interaction or lack thereof. Without that, what’s the story?
  9. Twin Towers tribute – Many people have suggested this was Banksy essentially daring people to tag over the work. Who would dare tag over a 9/11 tribute piece?
  10. Big malletMore site-specific posing.
  11. SphinxJust like many ancient Egyptian ruins, Banksy’s work is often subject to looting.
  12. The banality of the banality of evil – How much will you pay for a painting of a Nazi (okay, admittedly this auction took place online…)?

Better Out Than In was not about the internet. It was not about Banksy “broadcasting” his work to an Instagram audience as Lattner suggests in Juxtapoz and it did not primarily take place on the internet as Silver suggests, at least not any more so than 99% of mainstream street art today. Yes, Banksy utilized the internet, but for the most part only to the extent that any reasonable street artist utilizes the internet. In fact, Banksy probably had more of a focus during this show than most contemporary mainstream street artists have in their work on away from keyboard crowd interaction and response. What Silver and Lattner are noticing is street art in general, not Banksy.

If you want examples of street art that exists on the internet and was actually designed to exist there, check out the other examples in Silver’s article, or these posts I’ve written, or wait for my ebook Viral Art, which will be out in a few weeks.

Photo by Ray Mock


Category: Events, Featured Posts | Tags: ,

Parsing out the urban art grab bag

November 19th, 2013 | By | 6 Comments »
C215. Photo by Feral78.

C215. Photo by Feral78.

Note from RJ: A version of this essay by Christian Guémy aka C215 was recently published in French with Rue89, but we both felt it was important to publish a version in English as well. – RJ

For some time, and especially since the English artist Banksy has enjoyed worldwide success, hardly a week goes by without the media reporting an event involving the urban arts, whether it’s a gallery showing “street art,” or auctions of “graffiti,” or the setting up of an “open air museum,” or pure and simple repression of vandalism.

It’s clear that recognition by the public and the media of urban arts has arrived at its apogee, and achieved the summits of popularity. Even so, I am astonished by the absence of distinction among the various practices that make up urban art. Their reclassification into a gigantic ragbag conveniently called “street art” obscures more than it clarifies.

I’m 40 and I’ve been closely involved with urban art since 1984, which is when Sydney presented in France his cult television show “H.I.P. H.O.P.” I tried my hand at graffiti in 1989 and since then I have closely followed the progress of this kind of art. It seems that several “generations” have gone by since, each having very different ambitions and practices that deserve distinction.

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Category: Featured Posts, Guest Posts, Random | Tags: , ,

Banksy + 5: October 31st

October 31st, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »
Banksy in Queens. Photo from banksyny.com.

Banksy in Queens. Photo from banksyny.com.

Banksy finished Better Out Than In today with the above piece in Queens. The balloons didn’t last long when people tried to steal them and then the NYPD came to take the balloons and arrest the would-be thieves (more on that on Hyperallergic). And Jerry Saltz be damned, this is one of my favorite pieces of the show. Jerry Saltz may say he has no problem with graffiti, but I’m not sure he quite understands it either.

The location of this piece is perfect, with a NEKST tag (and remember what Banksy did on his website when NEKST died), an ADEK tag, two ADEK throwups and two LEWY throwups all visible in the above photo, which is the lead image for the piece on the Better Out Than In website. And of course, Banksy went higher up on the wall than all of those writers, but in a cheeky manner. I’m not saying that Banksy is still a hardcore train bomber, although he did pull of quite a few stunts this month, but he certainly has respect for traditional graffiti. Banksy could have installed those balloons anywhere, but he chose that particular spot and was able to highlight serious graffiti by some of the best writers in the city.

The audio description for this piece includes a serious note:

Banksy asserts that outside is where art should live, amongst us. And rather than street art being a fad, maybe it’s the last thousand years of art history is a blip, when art came inside in service of the church and institutions. But art’s rightful place is on the cave walls of our communities where it can act as a public service, provoke debate, voice concerns, forge identities. The world we live in today is run – visually at least – by traffic signs, billboards and planning committees. Is that it? Don’t we want to live in a world made of art, not just decorated by it?

I can’t think of a better way to close out the show.

But I’m not done. We still have our final + 5 featuring Poster Boy, COST, ENX, Invader (who has reportedly been arrested in NYC!), Ludvig, Swoon, GANE and TEXAS…

Poster Boy in NYC. Photo by Poster Boy.

Poster Boy in NYC. Photo by Poster Boy.

COST, ENX and Invader. Photo by Luna Park.

COST, ENX and Invader in NYC. Photo by Luna Park.

Ludvig in London. Photo by Ludvig.

Ludvig in London. Photo by Ludvig.

Swoon in NYC. Photo by Luna Park.

Swoon in NYC. Photo by Luna Park.

GANE and TEXAS in Philadelphia. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

GANE and TEXAS in Philadelphia. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

Photos from banksyny.com and by Poster Boy, Luna Park, Ludvig and RJ Rushmore


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