As I am sure many of you have heard (and if you have not, then I am jealous you have been hiding under a rock, curled up and well rested), last week Mr. Banksy managed to pull a new one on us.
Sotheby’s employees pose with ‘Love is in the Bin’ (later renamed by Sotheby’s) by British artist Banksy during a media preview at Sotheby’s auction house on October 12, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Shortly after the hammer came down on the item for the final bidding of $1.2 millions dollars, the canvas of “Girl With Balloon” by famous anonymous artist, Banksy, began to pass through a shredder installed in the frame. The alarms went off, the staff took away the painting in panic and now a week later, the painting’s value raises another million dollars and the woman who bid on the painting decided to keep it, half shredded and all.
Since his Tate Gallery stunt of 2003, this guy (or girl, because everything is possible nowadays), has been in the headlines for years after. Never before had something like that been attempted in reputable museums. In 2013 he came back with his Better Out Than In exhibit, where he made all of New York his museum institution that housed his artworks. Then in 2015, he produced the anti happiest place on earth, Dismaland where he gathered a group of fellow street artists and created a (literal) theme park filled with themes of apocalypse, anti-consumerism, and pointed social critiques on celebrity culture, immigration, and law enforcement. Lastly in 2017 with his Walled off Hotel experience in Bethlehem, West Bank where he constructed a hotel with the “worst view in the world” across an alley from the 26-foot wall that separates Israelis from Palestinians.
Many criticism of his work revolves around being inherently negative, critical, derivative, only interesting to dumb people (looking at you, Shailee Koranne from HuffPost), annoying, and commenting on all too obvious social and political events. It is abundantly clear that some people just do not want to see that sort of art form and therefore do not find it interesting. Many people that I have asked if they are a fan either give me a shrug or have no idea who I am talking about.
As for me, Banksy is and will always been one of the most important artist in the history of art.
Banksy wore a disguise to sneak a painting into Tate Britain in 2003. He managed to hang and display at least 20 of his art works around the museum and took the staff a couple of hours to realize what had happened.
“The Sirens of the Lambs” truck that traveled around New York during his Better Out Than In “exhibition” in 2013 where he unveiled at least one work of art daily, documenting it on both a dedicated website and an Instagram account.
A view of the rundown castle from the anti happiest place on earth – Dismaland theme park in 2015.
The reason I believe he is important is not only through the messages he/she/they portrays (now I am assuming it is a collective group of people), but the way how those messages are portrayed. Banksy’s art has long been rife with political overtones as he once told his friend, the author Tristan Manco, that he likes “the political edge” of his work. “All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history,” he said. “They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars.”
Indeed, Banksy seems to be mounting his own revolution against the social politics of the world. But even though politics and activism are frequently referenced by artists (both little-known and famous), the immediacy and accessibility of Banksy’s politically-inspired work makes it especially potent. “All art is political in some way, but Banksy always has that quick response,” Rachel Campbell Johnston, the London Times art critic, told The Daily Beast. “It’s prominent because it’s in the moment and visible to the public. He uses art as a weapon. I think many artists use politics in order to get into galleries, whereas Banksy does the opposite.”
While some art critics think Banksy’s art is too obvious, others think his on-the-nose political one-liners are genius. It is very sharp, almost like a political cartoonist joke that you find in newspaper columns with a punchline.
Another thing that makes Banksy one of the most important figures in art history is that even though his artwork fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction without his consent, Banksy gives it away for free. He/she/they isn’t/aren’t represented by galleries (that we know of), and as a result, he’s/she’s/they’re entirely in control of his/her/their own narrative.
At the moment, the value of his artwork is skyrocketing by the second. Already his famous shredding has been adapted into pop culture by McDonalds, Perrier, and even IKEA.