This past Thursday, Banksy’s month-long “artists residency” throughout New York’s five boroughs came to an end.
The famous British graffiti artist, film director and activist known as Banksy, whose real identity is still unknown, created a public art exhibit called “Better Out Than In” throughout New York. Banksy unveiled a new art piece every day in different locations across all five boroughs this past October. The exhibit consisted of various mediums, including 30 spray paintings, moveable pieces, murals, 2 videos, one sale of his work and one unpublished New York Times opinion piece. The press fervently followed “Better Out Than In,” creating a scavenger hunt for New Yorkers to try to find the next Banksy piece before it was painted over or shut down.
Banksy recorded all his pieces on his website, http://www.banksyny.com, and his Instagram account, Banksyny, each day with its neighborhood location. Accompanying some of the artwork was a 1(800) phone number which, when called, prompted a satirical audio guide’s explanation of the piece, likening the viewer’s experience to that of a museum exhibition. For the majority of Banksy fans who were unable to chase down all of his work on foot, the artist included the audio guide recordings on his website, along with some captions.
Two Fordham alums were lucky enough to see Banksy’s artworks in person in Manhattan this past month. Two weeks ago, Paul Lougee, GSB’13, an avid Banksy fan, hunted down one of Banksy’s graffiti pieces located at 24th Street and 6th Avenue. The stencil depicted a black silhouette of a dog peeing on a fire hydrant that has a think bubble sprouting from it, which read, “You complete me…” Part of the Stencil was already painted over by the time Paul saw it in person. While he was observing Banksy’s work, an older couple approached the graffiti and started to talk about how disappointing it was that someone had drawn over his work.
“I quickly told them that after watching the artist’s documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, I don’t think Banksy cares if people paint over it,” Lougee said. “He wants people to interact with his pieces and make them their own. That’s the beauty of street graffiti, that it’s fleeting and might be gone hours after being created.”
Kate Detjen, RHCH’12, stumbled upon Banksy’s “Shoe Shine”, which was a large fiberglass statue of a Ronald McDonald having his massive red shoes shined by a real life young man dressed in tattered clothing. The statue and boy moved to a sidewalk outside of a different McDonalds location each day for a week.
“I was just walking along in Midtown, when I noticed a small crowd on the sidewalk surrounding the sculpture and the homeless-looking boy, who was giving the group of onlookers a mean mug while rubbing the shoes with a rag,” Detjen said. “There was about 10 people snapping pictures of the sculpture, but a lot the people passing by looked confused as to what was going on.”
Throughout the anonymous graffiti artist’s stint in the concrete jungle, he created funny, interesting, thought-provoking pieces of art, some more controversial than others. Most notably, Banksy’s “Siren of Lambs,” a slaughterhouse delivery truck full of squealing stuffed animals, brought children to tears. As well as, the rejected New York Times Op-Ed piece, that bashed the new World Trade Center, calling it a “shyscraper” and “something they would build in Canada.”
At least one of Banksy’s pieces during his residency contributed positively to the New York community. Banksy’s reworked landscape oil painting “The banality of the banality of evil” was displayed in a thrift shop and recently auctioned off for $615,000 with the proceeds going to charity.
One of Fordham’s seniors loves Banksy’s endeavors in New York, “I personally love what he’s doing because he’s great at sending subtle social messages regarding the nature of society,” said Zac Cohen, RHCH’14.
The last of Banksy’s “Better Out Than In” artwork was floating balloons that spelled “Banksy!” in classic New York Graffiti style bauble lettering, on the side of a building, off the Long Island Expressway. The accompanying audio guide gave New Yorkers a final message about art,” Art’s right place is on the cave wall of our communities, to provoke debate and voice concern. Don’t we want to live in a world made of art, not just decorated by it?”