What can a street artist do when his work achieves commercial value – without him ever asking for it? When his sprayings are hacked out of facades and sold on to high-end galleries? What can a street artist do if his free gift to the city stops being accessible to the public? And when the city threatens him with prosecution for its creation?
All of these are questions faced by prominent street artists; questions now explored by Banksy, one of the genre’s most famous protagonists, as part of his one-month residency in the streets of New York, “Better Out Than In.”
Throughout October, Banksy will create a unique piece of work every day, documented on his web page as well as his Twitter and Instagram channels. In a city like New York, where street art is prohibited by law, yet remains a vital part of the metropolises’ cultural and social vibe and fabric, this project highlights the ever-relevant discussion on the acceptance and importance of street art in public space. Heading his website with a Paul Cezanne quote, “all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside,” the British artist underscores his inherent protest against prohibitive legislation as well as the staid state of current contemporary art.
While some of his recent New York works, e. g. a delivery truck harboring an oasis of plants and enchanted waterfalls, add wonder and beauty to the busy and bustling city, others are strongly provocative and reveal the absurdities of the current art circus: At a stall in Central Park, original works by the furtive street artist – worth thousands of dollars each – sold for a mere 60 dollars. Invariably imbued with plenty of cheeky humor, his delightfully diverse subversions of urban life pick up on everyday sensitivities. Take the aptly titled Sirens of the Lambs, a puppet-filled slaughterhouse delivery truck that toured New York’s Meatpacking District with 150 cute stuffed animals peering through the slats, to resounding (social) media acclaim.
Well, there is plenty more to come from the prolific jack-of-all-trades: If you happen to be in the Big Apple – or if you are planning an imminent visit – keep your eyes peeled for Banksy’s fresh social commentary on the city’s urban fabric – or even the artist in action! The artist’s media channels will keep you up-to-date on his latest escapades. Hopefully, Banksy’s evocative and visual protest will sway public perception of street art – and in turn affect and ameliorate the everyday legal situation of lower profile street artists. Because Banksy has got it right: Urban art works a lot better out on the streets than tucked away inside a gallery or museum.
All photos, incl. the header image, by Banksy
Text by Frank R. Schröder