Last year, I wrote a giant post that mostly discussed street art in general and Banksy in specific. It bounced around a few topics that seemed related to me and was at least loosely connected – street art, Banksy, my volleyball teammates, my time in St. Petersburg, Russia with SLS. Before I wrote that post, I was lucky if I got 20-30 hits a day on this blog, but since then, I’ve seen a leap in traffic and searches like “banksy,” “banksy pictures,” and “robin banksy.” Most of the searches are pretty standard, though there was a few of “бАНКСЫ" searches and I did see an odd one recently – “gross vandalism art.” Kinda intriguing.
Earlier this year, I revisited the idea of street art, particularly one of the images I’d included in that first post and the story of a friend of mine’s mural.
I’ve been meaning to write a true follow-up to the first street art post, because I stumbled on a lot of new information (and street art) since then. Where do I start?
Let’s start with New Orleans. In my first post, I linked to articles about Banksy’s visit to New Orleans and showed pictures of some of the work he did here. He mocked the “Gray Ghost,” who is a guy named Fred Radtke who paints over graffiti and street art. I’ve since found this piece that asks if there might be more than one “Gray Ghost,” if the Ghost has his own ghost. It raises the question of what distinguishes art from crime:
“Has its original intention been blotted out by Radtke’s approach, which some consider overzealous and unchecked that makes no distinctions between art and vandalism, or is he being unfairly criticized for what most would agree is a dirty job?”
Around the same time I first read this Gambit article, I found the website and trailer for Vigilante Vigilante, a film that looks at three men, including the Gray Ghost of New Orleans, who have made it their mission to “buff out” street art. Watch the trailer, it looks pretty amazing:
And of course, I found out about the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, about Banksy taking over the documentary a guy was trying to make about him. I’ve been waiting eagerly to see it. When our most arty theater, Canal Theaters, was under construction, I thought there was no way I’d get to see it on the big screen. Then, oddly enough, a friend discovered it was playing at the recently renovated and re-opened Chalmette Theaters. This theater, like most everything else in Chalmette, was destroyed during Katrina. And it wasn’t easy to figure out where this theater is or what the showtimes were, let me tell you. My friend and I and a co-worker all had to investigate and then, of course, I had to drive out in a rainstorm to Chalmette, not really knowing my way. Anyway, I’d do it all again because it was an awesome experience. It should be said that the Chalmette Theaters is open, but only just. When I first walked in, I obviously walked in the side that’s not yet renovated and open for business. It was a big empty shell. When I found my way out and inside the open side of the theater, everything was glitzy and great, still smelling of fresh paint. It was, for that surreal reason alone, probably the best possible place I could’ve seen Exit Through the Gift Shop.
I shared the theater with one other patron, a completely unexpected middle-aged white guy, which just goes to show my own expectations and prejudices. We said hi as took my seat a few minutes before showtime, but didn’t speak again through the movie. I loved that the opening included a shot of the giant “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on the back of an abandoned building near NOCCA, on the river. Check out one of my pictures, below:
The movie was absorbing and really smart. I only wished it had something about Banky’s visit to New Orleans. Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away by detailing everything that happens, but if you’re a geek for street art like me, it’ll be your thing. When it was over, my mind was reeling. Me and the unexpected middle-aged white guy walked out together and had a tiny conversation about what we thought of the film and I left feeling freaked out, amused and very excited about street art, about New Orleans (and Chalmette) and re-inspired by Banksy all over again.
You know, some people grumble that he’s sold out, is selling out, or has always been a sellout since it’s likely he’s an upper middle class British guy. And I wonder, sometimes. Especially when I read something like this short Artnet piece:
BANKSY DOES $200K BAND BACKDROP
Everyone’s talking about the Banksy-directed film, Exit through the Gift Shop, which showed at the Sundance Film Festival and tracks the antics of street artist Mr. Brainwash. Also getting some press: the London band named Exit through the Gift Shop, which has understandably benefited from some free publicity. The similarity in names was apparently a coincidence, with the band having been founded a few years ago out of the “midlife crisis” of band member, 41-year-old web developer Simon Duncan.
Call it a happy coincidence though. According to the Guardian, Duncan’s band started receiving “hilarious emails from someone saying he was Banksy,” asking for them to change their name. Soon, in return for changing his band’s name to Brace Yourself, a white van delivered to Duncan a giant new Banksy painting — “the size of a double bed” — depicting a grim reaper driving a bumper car, with the words “Brace Yourself” written on the front.
A Sotheby’s appraiser estimated that the work is worth a cool $200,000, and has taken the original into storage. Brace Yourself plans to play in front of a full-sized replica of the Banksy at a gig this week.
That’s kinda a big corporation move, to demand that somebody change their name because it closely resembles that name of your project. Yet, I guess Banksy wasn’t exactly demanding, he was asking, as the piece says. And, not only did he gift them with a $200,000 piece of art, he linked his name to their band and provided media exposure. I, for one, wouldn’t know anything about this band if not for a having read this write-up.
So, knowing I was going to do a follow-up, I did a couple of searches to see what’s going on currently. As always, I found some really cool stuff to read and look at. Like the Tumblr page that’s constantly being updated with pictures people have tagged. And the photos from Banksy’s tour of New York. And this piece about a “graffiti war” between Banksy and Team Robbo, who are going behind Banksy and altering his pieces. Kinda like Jenn’s mural being tagged by someone else, like I mentioned in my “Reconsidered” post. And this YouTube video, which is interesting in and of itself, because it might as well be a guided tour of a museum, except the curator is a kid explaining a “graff war”:
Which kinda brings me back full circle again. In my first post, I tried to find something to indicate whether or not Banksy had been to Russia, especially St. Petersburg, where I found a lot of amazing street art. Well, I found this great image from Russia, probably St. Petersburg, actually.
And then this great article on the English Russia site about the “Ukranian Banksy.” Some really great stuff, here. My favorite may be this one:
And I think this is the best bit. It’d old news, but I hadn’t heard of it. The Cans Festival of public street art where spectators were encouraged to bring spray cans and wear clothes they didn’t mind getting dirty. I think every city should do this regularly. Would be really cool. Here’s my favorite of the pieces featured in the article:
Anyway, so that’s a lot of photographs and videos, just like the first post. I kinda get lost down the rabbit hole once I start talking about this stuff. I’ll leave you with my new favorite Banksy:
And some street art/graffiti images I’ve seen around New Orleans lately.