Exit Via the Red Carpet: Will Banksy Turn Up at the Oscars Tonight?

27 02 2011

Direct from sell-out shows in litter strewn alleyways and shabby walls across the globe, heeeeerrree’s Banksy! The Academy are all aflutter about what to do with the street artist überstar, who may well be set to win the Oscar for best documentary for his/her hilarious film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The film won the Oscar for best editing – according to Slashfilm, this is a good indicator of a pending victory because all but one of the most recent best documentary films were successful in that category.

So what if he/she does win? The Academy declined Banksy’s request to appear at the awards wearing a monkey mask because they feared a deluge of copy-cat party crashers. Not to mention, who’s to say that the monkey in the mask who mounts the stage to accept the award if the film does win is actually Banksy? It’s probably too late now, but perhaps the Academy could collaborate with the artist to create a one-of-a-kind monkey mask so that Banksy could stand out from the crowd of would-be Banksys. Hilarious.

Works purporting to be by Banksy, and documented on the website, www.banksy.co.uk, have been appearing around LA in recent days, including the two shown here. Mickey and Minnie – living la vida loca in LA. Heh heh. As an aside, the fate of these stencils highlights everything that’s been said before about the commodification of this art form – ironically captured so effectively in Exit Through the Gift Shop. According to an account on Slashfilm, one of the stencils has been removed and sold on eBay (video of said removal is posted on YouTube), the billboard poster has been taken down and is to be displayed in Las Vegas, and the occupants of the building upon which the third has been painted are lobbying their landlords to clean the defaced stencil and protect and preserve it. This may just be the most effective Oscar’s campaign ever – the truth of the message conveyed by Banksy’s film enacted in the streets of LA.

All of this creative activity has been fuelling the frenzied speculation about whether or not he/she’ll attend. My guess? He’ll get Shepard Fairey or Mr Brainwash (whoever he may be!? One of the theories is that HE is Banksy) to collect it on his behalf. Let’s hope I’m wrong, and that he/she – or they, for that matter – does show up in one incarnation or another. Could be the one thing that saves the annual snooze-fest that is the Academy Awards ceremony.

(Pictures via http://www.banksy.co.uk)


Obey! Shepard Fairey Plasters Hosier Lane

11 06 2010

And so, another instalment in my series of poor-quality photos – this time taken in the rain with my phone. But, I couldn’t help myself. Until Never (the gallery) is running an exhibition of noted American street artist Shepard Fairey’s work at the moment, and the wall that leads from the corner of Hosier Lane to the gallery’s entrance is completely plastered with a veritable gallery of Fairey’s most iconic images. It’s quite a sight to see.

The juxtaposition of the posters in their natural habitat with their presentation in the 2nd floor, white-cube gallery space, is curious and telling. On what was a chilly, drizzly Melbourne afternoon, the posters in the lane, which as you can see have already attracted the attention of taggers, were torn, discoloured and peeling off the wall in places. They have a texture and immediacy to them – you know they will continue to deteriorate, exposed as they are to the elements and the activities of other makers of marks on walls. Wait much longer, and there won’t be much left to see. And what better way to speak of commodification, dehumanisation and the industrial machine than to  churn out images on paper intended to be pasted on walls in the urban jungle and destined to end up buried under layers of street-art detritus, painted over by diligent council clean-up teams, or squished into great, coloured gobs of soggy torn paper? Knowing that these artworks are ephemeral makes the messages they communicate all the more powerful. And then, upstairs in the gallery, posters are transformed into commodities. Not that I should be complaining – I couldn’t resist buying an Obey Giant print. Yes, I can be a nasty, acquisitive beastie. But watching the transition of street art from the cobbled laneways to the austere confines of the commercial gallery space is intriguing. Relying, as it has, on subversive means of communication and guerilla tactics, how will the movement adapt to a radically altered environment?

Rats! Another Melbourne Banksy stencil bites the dust.

27 04 2010

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)

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

1 05 2009

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’