Friday, September 15, 2006

Banksy goes to America

Hype and secrecy surrounds graffiti artist Banksy's Barely Legal exhibition in California, which opens later this week.

In typical Banksy fashion, it was not until two hours before the media preview, that I was given the address of the venue for his exhibition.

A 37-year old Indian elephant has been painted, from head to tail, in a floral pattern reminiscent of an old fashioned living room or a British pub.

The animal is made to stand in a makeshift living room, complete with sofa, chandelier and decorated with wallpaper in the same pattern.

"I've still got to get my head around that one," said Jason Bentley, a commentator on US public radio.

About eight years ago or so I was walking to work down Cheltenham Road in Bristol, when I was stopped in my tracks by this enormous and technically astonishing piece of graffiti, plastered, presumably overnight, on the side of the council housing offices.

It depicts a bright yellow teddy bear tossing a Molotov cocktail at some riot police, beneath the slogan “The Mild, Mild West”.

I was so impressed, both with the skill and weirdness of the work, and with the fact that somebody had managed to do it at all, that the next day I took a photo of it, expecting it to be removed sharpish.

But it’s still there now, a well-known feature of the city, and the mysterious Banksy has become Bristol's most famous ‘artist’.

At least, some people call him an artist (mainly because when there is an obvious message, it’s predictably trendy-left). I’d call him a prankster.

His targets have evolved from the streets of Bristol to the British Museum, New York, Disneyland, Paris Hilton and even the West Bank barricade.

And now that he’s gone global, his works in his home town have become as protected as Grade II listed buildings.

I’m not sure what that says about anything.


Duck said...

It says that if you are talented enough, you can break the rules.

Peter Burnet said...

Indeed. It is very embarassing to try and shout "Will no one think of the children?" in protest, but fail because one is laughing too hard.