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


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 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 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 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

BNE Water

The following is a message from BNE, the graffiti writer and founder of the BNE Water Foundation. The foundation is launching an ambitious project to provide clean water to people in Gunung Kidul, Indonesia. If you have the means, I encourage you to donate or pick up something from the foundation’s shop or gallery. With this project, even a small donation goes a long way.


As many of you know, since early 2011 we have been working really hard to launch the BNE Water Foundation (known as Yayasan BNE in Indonesia), a non-profit organization like no other. To get this far, it has taken almost eight months of bureaucracy, a lot of hard work and about $50,000. We are now an official NPO and this is the start of what I feel is a true platform for real social change. Much like graffiti in its purest form, this is something real and very raw that was born in the streets.

Many generous artists including Estevan Oriol, Sabe KST, INSA, Shepard Fairey and others have come on board, they are among the first to have donated artwork. People have also started to support by donating cash and buying sticker sets which is much appreciated. What bothers me is that I have been hearing many people say things like, “That’s really cool what YOU are doing” or “good luck with YOUR project.” This disturbs me and makes me think that most of you really do not understand my intentions. I have funded this project for the most part by myself and will continue to do so for as long as it takes, but this is not something that I can do alone. I am simply donating my name, ideas, time and money to set this off. This was never meant to be MY project, this is something for the people. My intentions were to create something that everyone could participate in, and something that everyone could benefit from. I CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. The most I can do is give all of you the platform and opportunity to create something truly revolutionary. Without all of you, this will not work.

I have spent more than 15 years doing graffiti full-time for no pay, and like many of you I have no plans of ever stopping. Throughout my graffiti career, I have never felt the need to speak or do interviews, anything I needed to say could be expressed on the walls. In order to get all of you to act, and to become a part of something that benefits both our culture and society, it has become necessary for me to speak out. None of you will ever know what I’ve been through in order to travel the world, do the amount of graffiti that I’ve done and to be able to present this project to all of you. However, I think that through my visible actions over the years, I have proven to all of you my dedication to our culture and have shown you what I am about. Now, I would like to respectfully ask all of you, to show the world what we as a culture are about. Our culture was born out of rebellion and if any group of people is capable of igniting something truly revolutionary, it’s us. I would like to believe that we are about something more than ego, endless self-promotion and trying to make a dollar. Are graffiti and street art just empty visual commodities that have been co-opted by brands, corporations and institutions, or are we a culture that actually stands for something?

For our next project, we have promised over 100,000 people in an impoverished area of Indonesia access to clean water and sanitation. It will cost about two million dollars to complete this project. All types of artists and people from all walks of life are of course invited to be a part or this, but now I am reaching out to all of you specifically. I am asking graffiti writers and street artists to be the ones primarily responsible for changing these peoples lives. I have faith that I can rely on all of you to be the spark that blows this movement up into the massive force that I envision. We hope to start work on this project March 1st. If every single one of you decide to get involved after reading this, the entire project will easily be completely funded and you will have given us the much needed traction to move forward. I have always thought that it was a shame and a waste that we have never all united for a single cause. I am now presenting all of you with a chance to do that. I’m not sure how many graffiti writers, street artists, and fans of our culture are out there, but I assume we are in the hundreds of thousands at the very least. If we ALL come together, we can do on our own what our governments are failing to do. The fact that more than one billion people consider clean water a luxury is completely unacceptable.

Our goal is to raise at least $500,000 dollars before March 1st, but I believe that we are capable of raising the full two million dollars or even more. When united in large numbers, the power of the people is massive. With everyone’s support, achieving this goal will not be very difficult.

We are 100% sure to succeed if EVERYONE gets involved by doing the following things:

1. EVERYONE needs to make a cash donation. $5, €10, ¥1000, what ever you can afford, the important thing is that EVERYONE donates something. A $10 donation x 50,000 people is $500,000 dollars. This is enough to provide 25,000 people with clean water and for us to really get the ball rolling. At least 95% of you can afford to donate $10, so please make a donation and get two friends to do the same. Again, in order for this to work, EVERYONE needs to donate something. I don’t care if it’s one dollar or a coin, donate something and make sure you get someone else to do the same.

2. Spread the word. This is very important, please start by forwarding this message to other writers, street artists and fans of the culture. If you have a blog, Facebook or Twitter account please use them to spread the word.

3. If you are an artist who sells your work, please donate a piece to our gallery and get two friends to do the same.

Sadly, if enough of you disregard this message and choose to do nothing, then we will have shown that the world of street art and graffiti is made up of indifferent, selfish individuals who could not be bothered to help change the world. We will have failed in more ways than one. If EVERYONE gets involved, then we will have shown the world what true revolutionary actions look like. We will have also changed over 100,000 thousand lives in Indonesia, and jump started a true global movement for social justice.

4,500 children die everyday from water related diseases. These forgotten children are putting our culture to a test.

Let’s do this!





Photo courtesy of BNE

Weekend link-o-rama


This week the Occupy Wall Street live streams have been very effective at distracting me from Vandalog, which I’m not too upset about. The violent and suppressive eviction of Occupy Wall Street is certainly more important that the latest swindle that some art gallery is trying to pull. Nonetheless, I have been paying attention even if I haven’t been writing, so here’s what’s been going on in the street art world this week:

Photo by Damonabnormal

Weekend link-o-rama

Gold Peg

Well, it’s been quite a week for me at least. Here’s what I wasn’t posting about while I was busy breaking up fights…

Photo by Delete08