untangling the awkward relationship between art and money

Rats! Another Melbourne Banksy stencil bites the dust.

The original parachuting rat by street artist Banksy, which - until recently - could be found in one of Melbourne's lanes. <em>Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones</em>Was there a council meeting somewhere to which I wasn’t invited at which it was decided that April should be designated ‘persecute Banksy’ day? If so, I heartily object, your Honour. ‘Twas almost exactly a year ago that Glastonbury Council made a colossal blunder and erased one of Banksy’s stencil works from an unsuspecting wall. And now, we’ve lost yet another of our Banksys (Banksy plural: Banksii? Banksys? Banksies?) – some time ago we mourned the demise of the much cherished ‘Little Diver’, which was submerged beneath a wash of silver paint by an street art iconoclast. And now, Parachuting Rat, formerly of Hosier Lane, just behind the Forum Theatre, has met its demise, scrubbed out by a well-intentioned council cleaning crew.

A couple of questions – where in the name of all that is holy can I get me some of that cleaning fluid? The only sure-fire cure for the tags that periodically appear on my front fence seems to be yet another layer of Dulux.

Another question – street art is by its very nature transient and mutable. Should we be surprised that this is its fate? In line with the artist’s intention (why else would he be making art in such exposed places?), wouldn’t it be best to simply let it disappear? Surely the prosaic demise of Little Diver and the airborne Rat is a crucial part of their lifecycle. They are conceived, made and distributed in such a way that they are guaranteed to have a limited shelf life. A bit like we frail human beings, really… see what he’s doing there? As you can see in the picture of the poor, late, lamented rat, a subsequent visitor to the wall had already made his mark. And so it is in the world of guerilla art. The owners of the wall on which Little Diver resided really sealed his fate by encasing him in a perspex sheet. That’s not what it’s meant to be about. It only becomes a problem once people start getting over-excited about an artist in the art market. Only then do we worry about preserving these gestures that were never really meant to last. Because they may be worth eleventy-bazillion dollars one day. I don’t hear anybody complaining about all the other things that were cleaned off Hosier Lane. Because they weren’t worth anything, cash-wise.

Oh, and to the denizens of the good city of Melbourne? You plan to “implement retrospective legal street art permits to ensure other famous or significant street artworks are protected”? Er – the point is that you won’t know it’s famous or significant until long after it’s made. By which time, at this rate, it will have been painted over or removed. Catch-22, I’m afraid.


(Image: Michael Clayton-Jones via The Age online)

2 Responses to “Rats! Another Melbourne Banksy stencil bites the dust.”

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