As Miami prepares for the glitzy annual Art Basel festival, New York City is experiencing a different kind of renaissance. Famous graffiti artist Banksy, the anonymous entity that has carved messages and icons in places around the world, undertook a month-long “artist residency” on the streets of the Big Apple as he illegally settles one work per day in the city’s public spaces.
Around the same time last year, Banksy and Art Basel were entwined in the news. BACKGROUND Art Miami, a satellite fair that takes place in downtown Miami, was intention to show four walls allegedly stenciled by Banksy, cut out from their original location on the walls of Jerusalem and elsewhere. Initially, the show planned to offer the works for sale, but after complaints from artists, art critics and supporters of public art, the walls were offered for exhibition purposes only. Organizers of Art Miami said the wall exhibit was intended to respond to a “ongoing debate on ethics and the importance of showing âsite specificâ street art outside its original context. “
But in light of a recent and rare interview with Banksy himself published in New times‘sister diary Voice of the village, this is hardly the point of view of the artist.
Through his publicist, Banksy contacted the Voice of the village to discuss his residency, work, and the complex issues of being a world-renowned but anonymous artist. Although the artist refused to answer several questions (the interview was carried out by e-mail, after Voice of the village editors confirmed that they are communicating with a legitimate representative of Banksy), he directly addressed the tension between art and commerce:
âI started painting in the street because it was the only place that gave me a show,â he writes. âNow I have to keep painting on the streets to prove to myself that it wasn’t a cynical plan. Plus, it saves money on buying canvases.
âBut there’s no getting around that – business success is a mark of failure for a graffiti artist. We’re not meant to be adopted that way. When you look at how society rewards so many bad people, it it’s hard not to regard the financial repayment as a sign of self-serving mediocrity. “
Banksy later recognizes that artists – graffiti artists and others – deserve to be paid for their work; otherwise, only people who could afford to create art in their spare time – âpart-time kids and children in trustâ – would.
“But it’s complicated,” he continues. âIt’s like as soon as you take advantage of an image you put on the street, it magically turns that piece into an advertisement. When graffiti isn’t criminal, it loses most of its innocence. ” Like Voice the writer Keegan Hamilton said it: “He wants [his work]to be discovered in the alleys next to the dumpsters, not exhibited in a sterile museum. “
It looks like Banksy was not cool with this exhibition BACKGROUND after all.
You can read the full interview on Voice of the village.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.