Banksy in the Big Apple

2013-11-06 08:16
Legendary British street artist, activist, filmmaker and international man (or maybe, indeed, woman) of mystery, Banksy, has just completed a month-long artist residency on the streets of New York.

Titled ‘Better Out Than In,’ the project saw the anonymous artist, who has never formally been identified, unveil some form of artwork somewhere in the five boroughs that make up the city on every day of October. Works ranged from graffiti and street sculptures to video installations and performance art.

Day 13 of the pop up exhibition turned out to be one of the most noteworthy, as Banksy set up a stall in Central Park selling original canvases for only $60 (R597 at R9.95/dollar) a piece, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands an original Banksy would normally go for. According to AFP, ‘minimal interest and sluggish sales resulted in takings of just $420 (R4 180).’

Ten days later, the street art superstar made headlines once again, as a message inserted in a blank block on his website simply read: “Today’s art has been cancelled due to police activity.” Neither Banksy nor the NYPD offered news agencies any further details about the incident.

As the project started winding down this week, Banksy proved his renegade status when he took an otherwise bland oil painting of a serene lake scene and ‘vandalised’ it with an image of a Nazi officer pensively looking out over it from a bench. However, that’s not the really shocking thing about.

What really got jaws dropping, was the fact that he donated it to Housing Works Gramercy thrift shop, a chain that sells donated knickknacks to fund charities for AIDS and the homeless, for auctioning purposes.

The New York Post reports that Banksy titled the new piece ’The banality of the banality of evil’ Oil on oil canvas, 2013,’  describing it on his website as  “A thrift store painting vandalized then re-donated to the thrift store.” It was displayed in the store’s front window on East 23rd Street, hanging above a bright red love seat and an old wooden coffee table, Reuters reports.

Bidding opened at $74 000 (R744 600) on Tuesday last week and the painting was finally sold for $615 000 (R6.1m) on Thursday, Time Magazine reported.

The New York Times called Banksy's artistic roam around the Big Apple "a kind of social experiment, using the city as a rat maze into which he dropped different kinds of bait to see how New Yorkers react." While responses to his works varied, there seemed to be a common thread of reverence. The paper points out that special arrangements were made to keep artworks safe from vandals when they popped up on buildings, even by people who had barely ever heard of the street art phenomenon before. Guards were hired and some were even covered with plexiglass or roll down gates. 

While we obviously would prefer to have stalked the streets of New York in search of Banksy’s works ourselves this past month, we’ve had to be satisfied with living vicariously through the #banksyny Instagram hashtag.

Take a look at these pics of a selection of his works:

The Bronx finally has a zoo - this leopard was spotted at the Yankee Stadium

Banksy's dry sense of humour on...

Day28, Coney Island

Popped up in Upper West Side

To see all 31 works from Banksy's New York residency, check out the BanksyNY instagram account or the Better Out Than In website.

Read more on:    banksy  |  new york  |  travel  |  lifestyle  |  travel international

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