For the month of October, the pseudonymous graffiti-artist, political activist, film director and painter, Banksy, has assumed an artists residency on the streets of NYC. Each night he sets out to create or install a new piece of street art, while the city that never sleeps waits with uncertainty for him to post a picture of it on his blog, Better Out Than In. And so it begins, a hurried race of the masses to locate and critique Banksy’s latest piece.
And the irony of it all? Well take October 12, for example, when Banksy set up a stall in Central Park selling 100% authentic original signed canvases for $60USD each, and a total of three sold. When an opportunist set up an outwardly “Fake Banksy” stall shortly after the public learnt of Banksy’s stall, the canvases sold out in just three hours. Among other things, it is the commercialisation of his street art that Banksy despises the most. His art is deeply imbued with satirical messages about politics, religion, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchism and society in general.
When Banksy’s art is removed from the street and sold for millions of dollars, it is deprived of the context in which it was created and it is therefore deprived of its meaning. Banksy despises the way in which street art is privatised; allowing one person to benefit from it, both visually and financially, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Commercialisation of his art is the very thing Banksy deplores, and the very thing that has made him famous. And therein lies the conflict in his work, but according to Banksy, it’s still Better Out Than In.
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.”