Banksy Hits New York (and a Micro History of the City's Grafitti)

L. R. Laverde-Hansen By L. R. Laverde-Hansen, 23rd Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Artists

Banksy is the most famous street artist today, and for now he is in New York. But he is by no means the first graffitist working here. A very brief review of the history in the Big Apple.

A Tiny History of New York Graffiti Art

Graffiti art was once considered the quintessential mark of urban blight and decay. Its presence meant that property was being altered, neglected (if not painted over), and to some, vandalized.

While most graffiti were--and are--unauthorized and illegal, they also expressed a separate purpose. Unlike common vandals who only attacked property, graffiti artists attempted to leave an artistic stamp, usually in the midst of a bleak and punishing landscape. Though erased by property owners and often interrupted by law enforcement, graffiti became a visible sign of urban culture, particularly in New York City. Subway cars were covered in colorful, spray-painted images and calligraphy. Blank building walls and store gates were blanketed with outsider art.

But in time the state of graffiti art--and that of graffiti artists--changed. The City authorities worked to prevent future "art works" on subway cars, vendors stopped selling spray paint to minors and penalties for painting graffiti were more rigorously enforced. Many young artists were either incarcerated (usually for more serious crimes), retired or brought their skills to other creative pursuits. A few, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, transformed from common graffiti "taggers" to major figures in the art world.

Enter Banksy

The anonymous "artist" who made a name putting up graffiti "installations" in Britain is currently holding a month-long "residency" in Manhattan. He (since most consider him to be a lone male) is already creating a media stir with well publicized art pieces and stunts (like having his paintings sold--and ignored--on the streets of New York).

Personally I never cared much for Banksy. While I admit he excels in cleverness and cultural savvy, his work is fairly thin and relies more on audience reaction than composition. Part of his charm is in the purported mystery of his identity. But I can't believe that the news media are unable to name this artist, when they are able to track down the most obscure of sources. No, I conclude they already know (or have a good idea), and are keeping the secret, because it sells.

I also believe that Banksy is, in fact, a team of artists and reps, which works in tandem to elude, or at least obscure detection. There is something too polished, indeed slick, not only in the execution of the artwork, but in the speed with which it gets publicized. How is that we, the public "find out" right away that the work is his, and not a close copy cat? True the Internet hypes happenings with amazing celerity, but seasoned operatives know how to get the word out to the right outlets at the best moment. Banksy, whether an individual or a collective, has become a major brand name with much riding on the ability to garner media coverage. Hence the foray into New York, and not a smaller American city. All roads, it seems, lead here today.

Composed and revised in New York
October 22, 2013



Art, Banksy, Banksy Graffiti Art, Basquiat, Graffiti, Graffiti Art, Street Art

Meet the author

author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
Poet, playwright, commentator. I write wherever I can. Currently I reside in the City of New York.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
23rd Oct 2013 (#)

Interesting posts!

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author avatar Delicia Powers
24th Oct 2013 (#)

Wonderfully fascinating...thank you...

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
20th Oct 2014 (#)

Thank you, all.

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