untangling the awkward relationship between art and money

“Please look after this bear. Thank you.”: Oops! Glastonbury council destroys Banksy’s Paddington Bear.

Uh oh. Seems some overly zealous council workers have painted over one of Banksy’s Paddington Bear stencils in Glastonbury during an anti-graffiti blitz.

This wouldn’t be the first time one of Banksy’s works met such a fate. In Melbourne, we had a little Banksy of our own, ‘Little Diver’. The owners of the building whose wall the artist tackled with his spray-can covered said stencil with a sheet of perspex to protect and preserve it. But, in a perverse twist of fate, another, rather more prosaic, practitioner of wall defacement poured silver paint behind the sheet of perspex and scribbled ‘Banksy Woz Ere’ across the face of it.Image from Web. Showing a Banksy artwork. 131208.

Could this be the inevitable fate of much stencil art? I mean, it’s a curator’s worst nightmare… an artwork, exposed in a public space, indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from the colourful tags that surround it. Besides which, given that street art began as what amounts to a guerrilla movement, disseminated under cover of dark and anonymity, should it be left to its fate? Purists would probably argue yes. But that’s unlikely once the market gets its hands on it. Once an example of street art has a tangible financial value placed upon it, there’s no way it will be left to deteriorate and succumb to destructive environmental elements. This is exactly what happened here in Melbourne, where a massive mural painted by Keith Haring on an exterior wall of the Collingwood Technical School in 1984 has been listed with Heritage Victoria to ensure its preservation, despite much debate about the artist’s intention. Painting it in such an exposed location, Haring would have known that it would deteriorate over the years. Was that as important a facet of the artwork as its actual execution? Or would he have wished to see it restored and preserved? Impossible to say – Haring died in 1990.

Interesting conundrum, though. 

Image: Banksy ‘Little Diver’, before and after: ‘The Age’

4 Responses to ““Please look after this bear. Thank you.”: Oops! Glastonbury council destroys Banksy’s Paddington Bear.”

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