Banksy‘s most recent trip to New York has left the city temporarily bettered through public art — or tastelessly graffitied, until Bloomberg picks up the tab for some rollers and a paint crew — depending on whom you ask.
While some had their interest piqued by his painted rats, others were surprised by his spray-painted figures spray-painting figures; found themselves bemused at the whimsy of his balloons; or just felt damn lucky to have accidentally picked up one of his pieces for a song (via a brief stunt selling canvases in Central Park). There are just as many who wish the month of October, blighted by his messes around New York, could be a long-forgotten memory with fewer scavenger hunts, fewer selfies, and fewer “OMG BANKSY” Instagrams.
Banksy is frequently referred to as a graffiti artist and indeed got his start doing work on the streets of London. But his work can now seem more about baiting the press, drawing out the interminable, tedious game of “What will he do next?” and even worse, the corrupt, stomach-churning gambit of, “How much would that painted over billboard been worth at auction if the poor sap building owner had only been less philistine?” Some would sum it up by the proliferation of marketing, advertising and PR blogs with titles like 18 things brands can learn from Bansky.
They say he’s a criminal; we say they got off easy.
Here are five artists New York is lucky it didn’t get spreading their love:
- Judy Chicago — God bless the vagina. It truly is the well from which life springs. That said, if you spend enough time visiting Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” at the Brooklyn Museum, you may start to wonder how your parents ever let you eat a peach or smell a bouquet of flowers outside the confines of your bedroom. Banksy may have brought New York vermin, but at least he didn’t turn every surface into a vulva.
- Dash Snow — He may have left this mortal coil, but before he did, Snow gave the world the gift of his art — and his DNA. While the world could have certainly benefitted from more of mixed-media artist’s work, the last thing New York needs is to be coated in an additional layer of semen.
- Gavin Turk — The British artist is one of the most impressive metalworkers of all time, with works like “Nomad,” a bronze cast so meticulously painted it flawlessly resembles a sleeping bag with a person curled up inside. While Turk’s art is both impressive and stunning, in a city whose homeless population is already vastly underserved, the idea of littering the streets with bodies the average Joe could break a toe on — or better yet, replicas of his work “Bag,” a realistic cast of a garbage bag the Hulk couldn’t lift — would leave Manhattanites begging for Banksy.
- Kara Walker — If Banksy’s mild social commentary offends some, Walker’s extreme take on race and class would be sure to ruffle a few feathers. If you think a spray-painted kid spray painting a slogan on the side of your local deli is too real for you, how would you feel about the atrocities of slavery, done in Walker’s signature paper cutouts?
- Damien Hirst — Take Banksy’s truck full of bleating stuffed animals, replace with Hirst’s totally silent bisected pigs, cows, and submerged sharks. See if anyone complains about the noise again.
Does Banksy leave you nostalgic for the golden age of graffiti and hip hop culture? Watch director Tony Silver’s 1983 doc Style Wars free via FilmOn: