It’ll be interesting to see if Mr. Brainwash reacts to this. By the way, I met him last week and he signed my black book. As terrible as I think he is, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Maybe one day I’ll put the page on eBay and retire on the proceeds. Hopefully not. To be fair though, he was a super nice guy even though I think he knew that I hate his artwork, so that’s big of him.
So with the Oscars less than a week away and an Oscar nomination under his belt, of course Banksy has hit up LA with some new work. Some of it’s good, some of it is barely worth a mention and all of it is getting lots of attention.
My personal favorite from this series of hits is the above billboard, the aftermath of which can be seen in this video. Expect it to show up on eBay any day now.
The other piece I really like is this Charlie Brown on a burnt out building:
Hieronymus spotted the Charlie Brown piece getting covered by the property management company. His thoughts on the subject as well as on the general way that Banksy’s outdoor work has such a strange life these days are worth checking out. I would pretty much echo his sentiments. There’s also this video of the piece getting covered, but not much is clear except that the building owners want the work covered for now.
I think with either of those two pieces, they’d be worth mentioning even if they weren’t by Banksy, and that should be the measure by which his work is judged. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and massive amounts of attention have also been paid to every new Banksy in LA, even the two mediocre ones. First, there’s Dog Wizz, which is kinda funny I guess but definitely not top-notch Banksy work:
And then there’s this piece which looks to me like something Mr. Brainwash would dream up after looking at Banksy and Dran’s stuff for a bit too long:
Besides being a really weak concept compared to the rest of Banksy’s work with kids drawing, there are a few crazy things about this crayon-gun stencil: It was first “discovered” by Lauren Conrad from The Hills and she posted a photo on her twitter. As Hrag speculates, this was pretty clearly staged for maximum publicity for both Lauren and Banksy. Additionally, there’s this painting by Nils Westergard from about a year ago that is pretty similar, so if you like this Banksy but can’t afford to hire somebody to chop a wall out for you, you can always buy the Westergard version on canvas for $500. I’m not saying that Banksy ripped off Westergard, just trying to point out how simple the concept of a crayon-gun is (then again, you could argue that the simple concepts are what makes some of Banksy’s art so good). Finally, I think it’s pretty hilarious to see Banksy fans loving this piece when the first thing it made me think of is that infamous Mr. Brainwash image of Elvis holding a toy gun instead of a guitar. Honestly, the concept of this piece seems so MBW-esque to me, even though the style is obviously Banksy’s. Oh, and it looks like somebody trashed this wall already.
So that’s Banksy’s most recent LA advertising campaign. Some good art and lots of hype. Hopefully it all works in his favor, because I’d still love to see him win that Oscar on Sunday. I just re-watched Exit Through The Gift Shop last week for the first time since the premiere, and I liked it more the second time around. It’s not a bad film.
As mentioned a few days ago, Mr. Brainwash is being sued by Glen E. Friedman over the use of Friedman’s iconic photo of Run DMC. While this lawsuit has been going on for quite a while, attention was first really brought to it after a recent post on Boing Boing. The immediate reaction from the blogosphere seems to be to side with Friedman and against MBW, while somehow trying to explain how this is massively different from Shepard Fairey’s lawsuit with the AP where most of these same people were siding with Shepard.
I would love to, as usual, bash Mr. Brainwash’s work as overpriced, barely qualifying as art, completely derivative and only of any value (monetary, intellectual or otherwise) for the absurdity of him and his career as a whole. And I’d love to back up Glen E. Friedman, a photographer with a uniquely talented eye that combines taking photos of interesting/historic things with aesthetic and technical know-how. If there’s a guy a want to like in this story, it’s Friedman, and if there’s a guy I’d love to hate, it’s Mr. Brainwash. Unfortunately, I’m not going to take the easy sides. All those things I’ve said are true, but in the wider context of fair use and artist rights, Mr. Brainwash is the bastard child of a good idea worth defending.
A lot of MBW’s work relies on taking existing iconic imagery and changing it to fit within his world. With the Run DMC image, he has used it in a variety of ways, including stencils and his portraits made of broken records. He didn’t copy the photograph and start running off copies. He transformed it into something new. Yes, you could overlay MBW’s stencils with Friedman’s photo in photoshop and they would match up, but that’s how references photographs often work. That similarity, the reference, doesn’t mean they two works are the same thing or that MBW is legally obligated to license the use of the image from Friedman. The MBW artwork transforms the Friedman photograph into something new, and even if it doesn’t, street art fans need to be careful about not defending appropriation.
Street art and pop art in particular have relied heavily on the ability to appropriate from other people’s photographs or other imagery, iconic or not and often not licensing or even crediting the original creators. Shepard Fairey (countless times including his early André the Giant image and the Obama poster), Banksy (source), D*face (source), Rene Gagnon (source), C215INSA (okay this one is within the public domain but it’s still a good example of appropriation) and so many others have used source imagery in their artwork and transformed it into something new. We can debate, particularly with a lot of pop art, the extent to which the original thing was transformed, but there is definitely a change taking place and some sort of artistic or design input involved in making that new image. And if you want to argue that in all those examples I provided except for INSA, the artist should be legally and morally obligated to license the imagery from the creator of the source material, then that’s another debate. What I’m taking particular issue with today is that the same people who defend Shepard Fairey doing his lawsuit with the AP are now rooting for Friedman against Mr. Brainwash for doing essentially the same thing that Fairey did.
Sean Bonner has argued that the key difference between what Fairey and MBW did comes down to how iconic the photograph was to start with. By that logic, any random photograph is fair game to turn into a stencil without credit, but it would become problematic if the source photograph is well-known. Well then Bonner must also think that a lot of street art and pop art is vulnerable to lawsuits. The same argument that Bonner makes on behalf of Friedman would threaten some of the artists mentioned in the last paragraph, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can series, the work of Elaine Sturtevant, any artist using Mickey Mouse except in instances of parody and possibly even Shepard Fairey’s Andé sticker since Fairey was basically utilizing the iconic nature of Andé the Giant for his sticker.
Taking that view out of art and looking at music for a moment, mash up artists like Flosstradamus, The Hood Internet, Girl Talk and DJ Dangermouse rely on a combination of iconic and non-iconic sounds for their songs and don’t license that material. The courts have made it clear that a lot of what they do is illegal, but I don’t think that’s a decision conducive to the creation of new art and music. The White Album, The Black Album and The Grey Album are three very different artistic creations.
I hope that MBW wins this lawsuit and the rights to fair use and artistic appropriation are upheld.
That said, I want to get back to my earlier comment that MBW is the bastard child of fair use. It doesn’t seem to me like MBW’s artwork is how fair use is intended to work. And he looks like a complete jerk for not licensing imagery which it might have been possible to license (Shepard Fairey has licensed some of Friedman’s photos). The ethical thing to do might have been to at least attempt to license as much of the imagery that MBW uses as is possible. But he can’t legally have an obligation to license the imagery. Otherwise, art and music are screwed. MBW’s art based on iconic imagery is not how fair use is intended to work, but if it doesn’t work for MBW, it stops working for the artists who deserve fair use rights and use them respectfully. Although excessive allowances for fair use can screw good over people like Friedman who get taken advantage of by jerks like MBW, on balance, it’s better to have too many rights for fair use than not enough.
But I’m no expert on fair use. I’m hoping to get a nice discussion going here. What do you think?
PS, if you’re wondering why I’ve not posted Friedman’s original photo, it’s because I don’t have permission or a way to get in touch to ask for permission, and I don’t want to upset him by using his photo without permission even though it probably qualifies as fair use in this case. Just kidding (sort of).
Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, is getting sued for basing some of his “artwork” on Glen E. Friedman’s iconic photograph of Run DMC (as seen on the right side of the above photograph).
Sean Bonner has an article on Boing Boing with some details of the case his thoughts. While I think he makes some good points as to why this is different from Shepard Fairey’s lawsuit with the AP over his Obama HOPE poster, I disagree with his conclusion that Mr. Brainwash’s work isn’t covered by fair use while Shepard Fairey’s should be. As much as I dislike what Thierry does, as much as I would like to bash him and as much as I think the ethical thing in this case would have been to credit and license the image from Glen E. Friedman, I’m not sure that it’s a wise thing to say that he should be legally obligated to do so. I’ll probably explain my thoughts on this in more depth in another post by the end of the week.
Well I’ve been back in London for about a week now, and I am beginning to understand why people think it’s so grey. When you live here, you get used to it, but wow I’ve only been away for a few months and already I think the constant greyness is annoying. Still, it’s good to be home. Here’s what the world has been up to while I’ve been watching it rain.
A group of artists protested the removal of Blu’s mural outside of MOCA this week by projecting images onto the buffed wall. Here’s a news story and a video.
Kyle Chayka went on a bit of a rant about Banksy’s possible Oscar nomination, but he makes some good points.
Also on the topic of Exit Through The Gift Shop, the NYTimes is reporting that a man who has come forward as an original editor of Mr. Brainwash’s film Life Remote Control wants some credit for making the film that eventually sort of morphed into Exit.
Carolina A. Miranda wrote the latest cover article for the magazine ARTnews about the future of street art and it moving away from figurative work. You can read the entire article online. On the one hand, a move away from pop-art and figurative art seems to be counter-productive to the “art for the people” ethos at the core of so much street art, but it’s also certainly easier to turn a pop-art image into a marketing campaign while an abstract painting may do a better job of brightening up a grey wall without the artist and the viewer immediately thinking of dollar signs. I think street artists will just have to be careful to not become so conceptual that the possibility for people to understand or appreciate the art on some level without an artist’s statement is lost.
A mural by Shepard Fairey was partially painted over in LA by some other artists/writers. No big deal right? Happens all the time, right? Wrong, apparently. The mural was painted over by another artist showing at a gallery nearby. According to JetSetGraffiti, the artist has since apologized and will be paying for Shepard to repair the wall with a new mural. Okay, so should that mural still be there untouched? Maybe. Sounds like the local neighborhood liked it. Can it suck when things get dissed or buffed or written over accidentally or whatever else? Yeah. Should the artist have to pay for damages? Hell no! That’s the sort of thing that happens when you get arrested by the police for graffiti or street art, not something that art lovers should impose upon each other. The mural didn’t last forever. That’s the nature of street art. It sucks sometimes and there are ways to deal with it, but don’t make the vandal pay for damages!
The nice thing about street art is that, for 99% of the people who look at it (the people who see it on the street and not on blogs like this one), there’s not market consideration about “how much is that worth?” or anything like that. But then there’s the 1% of us (the people who follow blogs and write and forums and so on) who do see the art market side of street art. Sometimes the art market provides opportunities for Boxi, Steve Powers and other artists can show up in London and paintwalls with permission and free paint. Other times, the art market makes me want to cry.
This week, Philips de Pury had a few pieces in their London day auction by low-brow and street artists. Street Art Is Dead notes that two Mr. Brainwash pieces sold for £42,000 and £75,000 even though the estimates were already a seemingly insane £7-9,000 and £15-20,000 respectively. What makes those results even more disgusting is when you compare them to other results in that same sale:
And then the two most surprising results were that both a Margaret Kilgallen cluster and an old Barry McGee piece failed to sell at all! While this particular Kilgallen cluster has been floating around for quite a while, it’s not a bad piece and Kilgallen’s art is almost impossible to find for sale.
Similarly, while it doesn’t outrage me quite as much, I don’t exactly understand why this Banksy sold for $75,000. It’s just not a strong image.
The art market makes no sense and sometimes I wish it would just go away.
I really do not advocate artists tagging over others’ work usually (unless it is absolute shit/Waterloo Tunnel/or the artist does it himself), but in this case I applaud TrustoCorp for doing what other artists have wanted to for awhile: vandalize MBW’s street art. Granted the guy is a joke, and his portrayal in Exit Through the Gift Shop did not exactly help to improve his credibility in the art world. TrustoCorps’s work is a physical manifestation of the discussion around Mr.Brainwash and his so called “art” so I smiled when I woke up this morning and saw these pictures. I especially liked the use of the phrase “Locals Only” which harkens back to summer memories of New Yorkers invading my beach on the Jersey Coast. Go away MBW and stop putting up street art. I would rather see a 14-year-old bombing for the first time paint on a wall then see your post modern Warhol wannabe stencils on the streets. And while I’m ranting, Dear Bennies, please stay off the Jersey beaches. Love Stephanie.
Here are some of the pictures from TrustocCorp’s Flickr. You can see the rest from his destructive spree here
Phillips de Pury’s May 13th and May 14th Contemporary Art auctions have a number of interesting paintings up for grabs, but here’s a few of the pieces that are more relevant to Vandalog.
Lot 116. Rubber by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Estimated at $1,500,000-2,500,000.
Lot 145. Untitled by Banksy. Estimated $150,00-250,000.
I’d love to hear what somebody who can see this in person things of this lot. Seems like an expensive estimate, but it’s a big painting (188 x 180 cm). And it’s from 2003, which for me is one of Banksy’s best years. Can Banksy have a best year? That sounds really weird doesn’t it? But it’s something I seem to have noticed.
Lot 433. Pyramid (yellow on blue) by Keith Haring. Estimated $30,000-40,000.
Lot 434. Pyramid (blue on yellow) by Keith Haring. Estimated $30,000-40,000.
I love this piece. Not so much the yellow on blue pyramid with a similar design (lot 433). But this one, I love.
Lot 436. Untitled by Barry McGee. Estimated $8,000-12,000.
Not really for me, but perfect for the true McGee fans out there.
Lot 437. Charlie Chaplin Pink by Mr. Brainwash. Estimated $50,000-70,000.
Imagine a Nick Walker mood board, but made by Mr. Brainwash (no offense intended Nick). Ugliness overload. And not only that. It looks so boring. Doesn’t challenge or interest me in the least. But I hate almost everything that MBW signs, so I’m obviously not the best person to comment on this painting.
Some of the most interesting work in these auction for me actually isn’t the work by street artists. There’s a lot great art by artists like Chris Johanson, so it’s worth flipping through the full catalog if you’re curious.
This week’s issue of The Sunday Times Magazine has a really nice cover designed by Banksy. The magazine also includes an article on the artist and an interview.
The article covers such a wide range of topics from his identity and personal life to the art market to why CCTVs are irritating, so I’m not even going to try and pick out my favorite bits. The article is a good read though, and if you’re not completely sick of Banksy-mania, it’s worth reading. You can find it online here.
On a related noted, The Times had an article on Saturday about Mr. Brainwash and Exit Through The Gift Shop. It’s probably the best article I’ve read so far to look at Mr. Brainwash as a person and artist in an unbiased and thought-provoking manner. They even speak to MBW himself and get his take on the film, which definitely strays from the official story. You can read that article here.